Conservatives have taken to calling the cultural disintegration that we see happening all around us by the name of clown world. This is apt enough, but given the vindictive and malicious nature of the absurdities being thrown at us daily, I think it is necessary to add an adjective. I think we need to start thinking of it as creepy clown world.
And as with everything creepy, there is an implicit promise of more to come. They just want it to get creepier.
A few years ago, I wrote a brief introduction to the subject of Hell and damnation, which can be found here. While my central purpose in this post is to address a corollary to all of this, a quick review is still necessary.
Scripture presents us with three vivid pictures of the final state of damnation. The first, and the one most commonly remembered, is that of eternal torment (Matt. 18:8). Everyone knows that Hell is a place of torment, where the fire is everlasting. The second is that of utter isolation, the outer darkness (Matt. 8:12). And the last is the picture of personal disintegration, or destruction (Matt. 7:13).
As sinners who always love to slide off the point, we have no business picking or preferring one of these pictures over the others—our task is to hold to them all, and to seek to understand each in light of the others. Scripture is unambiguous about setting before us the possibility of a horrible destiny, and we need to be just as unambiguous in our fidelity to Scripture, adding our amen to it.
And so with that said, we should turn to discuss the contemporary politics of damnation.
We must learn to recognize that this life, this world, is something of an overture, something of a front porch to the way things are going to be forever. The final judgment, whether it is Heaven or Hell, is the place where we finally become what we have been becoming. Not only so, but because man is a social creature, we become what we are becoming in groups. This is why cities are subject to the judgment of God (Matt. 11:23). This is why generations are subject to the judgment of God (Matt. 12:42).
And as it happens, those cultures which deny the existence of a final Hell in the afterlife are those which prove themselves quite proficient in the building of prototypes of Hell on earth.
Abortion Culture and Gehenna
The first of these images of Hell in Scripture has an interesting history. Paganism, whether ancient or modern, veers quite naturally into child sacrifice. This was certainly true in the religion of the Canaanites, the worship which the Israelites found so enticing. Whenever Israel compromised with this corruption, it was to a perverse religion that caused their children to “pass through the fire.”
“There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch . . .”
Deuteronomy 18:10 (KJV)
But Israel was corrupted in just this way, again and again. And the place where much of this child sacrifice was conducted was in a valley just outside Jerusalem, the Valley of Ben Hinnom.
“And he caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke him to anger.”
2 Chronicles 33:6 (KJV)
But in the seventh century BC, good King Josiah desecrated that horrible place, acting on the basis of what we now know as the Dobbs decision.
“And he defiled Topheth, which is in the valley of the children of Hinnom, that no man might make his son or his daughter to pass through the fire to Molech.”
2 Kings 23:10 (KJV)
Over time, this place was turned into a land fill, where the maggots all live, and where fires were burning all the time (Is. 66:24; Mark 9:44). Another name for this Valley of Ben Hinnom was simply Ge Hinnom (Valley of Hinnom), and so it came about that gehenna was the word that Jesus used for the final judgment. It is worth noting that the field of blood, where Judas hanged himself, is also in the Valley of Hinnom.
And so it is that modern Christians should learn to think of Planned Parenthood clinics as precursors of Hell, as the anterooms of damnation. The fact that federal tax dollars still support this horror show demonstrates our enthusiasm over the trailer, and our hellbent intention of going to see the movie. And hellbent is the word to use because it is actually the name of the movie—Hellbent.
Then we come to the second image of damnation, which we can see under construction even now.
There is no community in the outer darkness. There are no friends. There are no parties, no get togethers, and most certainly no orgies. The only thing left is the dried bone of me, myself, and I, which a now gumless ego keeps trying to gnaw on.
In this great battle for the dictionary that is raging, one of the early casualties was the word community. We now speak readily—even conservatives do it now—of the trans community, or the gay and lesbian community. But there can be no communities, just as there can be no marriage, without men and women making love like normal people.
The human race was not designed as a random collection of utterly detached individuals, like a box of rocks. No, we are interdividuals, like leaves on a tree. We are all distinct, and at the same time we are all cousins. Individuality and organic connection one to another are God’s design, and the salvation of the human race is going to be the salvation of the individuals persons who make up the Bride. That is the center of all community. Ultimately, that is the only real community possible.
So when the secularist spirit of the age wants to argue for “intentional” relationships, and you are trained to not allow people into your life who do not advance your best interests, and you can read earnest think pieces on how to “detach” from those relationships that do not stroke your ego sufficiently, regardless of covenant promises made, that whiff of sulfur you smell is straight from the bottomless pit.
These people want to be able to “declare” things, and have them just be so. Just as God said “let there be light,” and there was light, so these aspiring deities want to be able to speak a great Lego community tower into existence. But they only want to do this after they have filed off the protruding bumps, and filled in all the holes. They then—having banished every form of authoritative connectivity—have resolved to build a great tower to Heaven. But this time Jehovah doesn’t have to come down to confuse everything because everything was already confused.
And then we come to the third and final image of damnation, and which our generation is trying hard to embrace.
In various Christian baptismal liturgies, the person to be baptized is called upon to “renounce Satan and all his works.” Something similar happens—but going in the opposite direction—when rebels harden their hearts, and insist on having everything their own way. They renounce Christ and all His works. The difficulty for them is that “His works” include every last molecule and atom. That work includes what He does in holding everything together.
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
Colossians 1:17 (ESV)
The rebellion our culture is currently waging against God’s structured order of male and female is an example of our revolt against one of the things that God uses to hold things together. It begins with men lusting after men, and even the women lower themselves so far as to desire other women. But there are still too many reminders of Christ’s authority, even in that perversion, and so the people in the grip of this swamp fever move on to the transgender apostasy, and the mutilation of young boys and young girls. When that fails to satisfy, as it will in fact fail to do, then it will be on to the next vain promise. They will offer to mutilate something else.
Gravity holds us down on the earth. Now there’s a limiting concept. And the thing that physicists call the strong force holds protons together in an atom’s nucleus. We don’t know what to do about all this because we have renounced Christ and “all His works.” But His foundational work is that of causing everything to be, to exist, to hang together.
We will never be able to achieve that desired complete annihilation, but we are in earnest pursuit of it. We yearn for everything to come unstuck.
The Conversion of Mark Studdock and Our Conclusion
Again, Hell is where the lost become what they have been becoming. So look around. What are we becoming? What is more characteristic of us with each passing day? We are more spiteful, more petty, more vicious. We are moving inexorably toward the lip of the Abyss, and it is our own legs that are walking us there. This is damnation on two feet.
In That Hideous Strength, when Mark Studdock was being trained in the tenets of his future damnation, that course of study was going on in what was called The Objective Room. In that room, everything was twisted, bent, and demented. The images he was shown, and the very structure of the room, were not totally severed from the world of the normal, but were bent enough to display its makers’ total disdain for and contempt of, the world of the normal.
Now Mark Studdock had gotten to that point as the direct result of his own stupid choices, as he came to recognize.
He was aware, without even having to think of it, that it was he himself—nothing else in the whole universe—that had chosen the dust and broken bottles, the heap of old tin cans, the dry and choking places.
C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength
But having gotten to that place, he was surprised at a reaction it brought about in him. It is the same reaction that needs to happen to this generation.
As the desert first teaches men to love water, or as absence reveals affection, there rose up against this background of the sour and the crooked some kind of vision of the sweet and the straight. Something else—something he vaguely called the “Normal”—apparently existed. He had never thought about it before. But there it was—solid, massive, with a shape of its own, almost like something you could touch, or eat, or fall in love with.
C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength
America most certainly needs to turn back to Christ. It is Christ or chaos. It is salvation or damnation. But in order to turn back to Christ, we must also turn back to Him, together with “all His works.” We must return to Normal. And those works of Christ include all creational norms, and many societal norms. The Lord’s works include buttered corn on the cob, the pleasure of a sneeze, dew on a freshly mown field, watermelon at the picnic, sunsets during harvest, a mountain covered with dark green pine, a bride and groom holding hands going out of a church, the smell of gunpowder at the range, and a whole row of wholesome American paintings by Norman Rockwell.
Get a taste of all that on your tongue, and cry out to Christ, asking Him to keep that taste there for you. Enough with the creepy clowns.
It was all mixed up with Jane and fried eggs and soap and sunlight and the rooks cawing at Cure Hardy and the thought that, somewhere outside, daylight going on at that moment. He was not thinking in moral terms at all ; or else (what is much the same thing) he was having his first deeply moral experience. He was choosing a side: the Normal.
C.S. Lewis, That Hideous Strength
So when Mark Studdock starts yearning for the “normal” in the Objective Room, it was his pathway back to God. It is not idolatry, despite a recent article from some bigwig in Big Eva on the temptation to heart idolatry that might be found in “fried eggs and soap and sunlight and rooks cawing.” One can never be too careful.