“Then the men of the town said to Joash, ‘Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.’”


Recently, our Pentecostal friends from Destiny Church have been in the media’s crosshairs. Though I have my theological differences (I lean Reformed), I respect their members for their courage. The NZ Herald reports one incident in Gisborne where protestors and counter-protestors clashed over a drag queen story reading. Part of Destiny’s protest involved painting over a rainbow crossing. A similar incident was recorded involving a rainbow crossing on an Auckland street. Tangentially, even if you wanted to promote LGBTQ values, a flag would be a better idea than a rainbow crossing. The latter is only likely to confuse motorists or injure pedestrians. Of all the bad ideas, a rainbow traffic light is probably the only rival to a rainbow crossing.

Both instances of painting over a rainbow crossing have been labelled as hate crimes. I will spend some time considering this idea and then idolatry. Firstly, the notion of a hate crime is seemingly arbitrary. If someone walks into a church, curses all Christians, blasphemes the Triune God, and then opens fire, then that is likely motivated by hate. But even then, I do not see why categorising it as a hate crime is particularly helpful. It is first-degree murder, and that is much clearer than calling it a hate crime. However, regarding the Destiny members, one cannot discern whether they were motivated by hate. To put it crudely, excluding inferring from outward actions, there is no hate-o-meter.

Secondly, out of this arbitrariness flows an excessive looseness in application. From genuine crimes motivated by hate like the degenerate who opened fire at the Christchurch mosques to J. K. Rowling misgendering rapists, the term hate crime can be applied loosely to a plethora of incidents. One consequence of this looseness is that rhetoric becomes drastically more powerful. The pastor who says that a man is a man commits a hate crime, and this crime becomes easily conflated with whatever else is called a hate crime, like aggravated assault motivated by racism. The Destiny members say that men with makeup and dresses should not read to children, and the rhetorical smear of “hate crime” is plastered onto their sensible claim.

Thirdly, the term hate crime marks an inward, subjective turn in society. Interestingly, the Rowling article (published by our beloved RNZ) that a “person commits an offence if they communicate material, or behave in a manner, ‘that a reasonable person would consider to be threatening or abusive’”. The focus is no longer on objective actions committed but on someone’s emotional response. Our society is suffused with what sociologists call “expressive individualism”, where meaning is found in and by ourselves. And if our own self is the most important, then crimes against it are the most heinous. Let us consider something like harassment. If a stranger follows a woman for a long distance and is clearly intent on mugging her, then that is likely a crime. But even then, the guilt is not primarily incurred because the woman feels uncomfortable but because the man’s actions demonstrate a readiness for violence or physical harm.

Let us take a more theological turn to consider idolatry. The apostle Paul in Romans 1 (do read it) discusses idolatry. Idolatry, for Paul, is the inward turn. It is the turn from God, the creator and sustainer of all things, to creatures, ourselves included (Romans 1:19-23). The zenith of idolatry is homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27). Homosexuality is not merely sin but evidence of judgement on sin. It is God giving us up (Romans 1:26) and Him saying to man “Thy will be done”. Pride flags do not merely demonstrate man’s sinful appropriation of God’s signs, but moreover, God’s judgement on man.

Idolatry, even in its homosexual forms, can be a private affair. One can sin in private. But Paul’s chilling assessment rings true: “Though they know God’s righteousness decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:32). Now, the idea I want us to have churning in our minds (and this idea may initially seem unrelated to my topic) is that a battle is most truly lost not when the enemy has obliterated your ranks, but when their soldiers walk amiably in your streets. It is not total destruction that marks full victory, but your opposition’s helplessness and humiliation. The man down two rooks still has something to fight for; the man who will be inevitably checkmated does not.

I highlight this image because idolatrous man is not content with private sin. The LGBTQ movement is not content with obliterating Christian morality from the public sphere. They must “give approval” and strut their soldiers in our streets, and moreover paint our streets with their army’s emblem. That is why the painting of rainbow crossings is not a mere issue of vandalism or damaging city property. It is an issue of whether idolatry is being paraded openly and whether we will stand for or against that. Another application of our image is that we (and by we I mean conservatives generally) have lost. The enemy is goading. We are in checkmate.

But I do not declare a definite defeat. Christ is Lord. He is reigning. The kingdom of the Triune God will come. It will not come through physical violence or acerbic polemics against the LGBTQ movement. It will come in salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16), and part of that involves combatting idolatry, first in our own lives and then in the culture around us. But one cannot combat idolatry and false allegiances if he does not have the right allegiance to cling to. One cannot fight if he does not have the right captain. Christ is the only sure foundation. He took our sins, bore the Father’s righteous anger against us, and clothes us in righteous robes. It is a statement worth repeating a thousand times, and even by the thousandth we will have never grasped its depth. It is this statement that compels the church militant to combat idolatry.

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