Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

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It’s OK for a man to be a helpmeet

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5 minutes to read A progression of observations about Wesley Hill, based on his own testimony, that do not make him look very good.

Michael Foster recently shared “Love, Again” by Revoice speaker and author of Spiritual Friendship, Wes Hill. Having gotten sucked into reading it, I figured I should redeem that time by sharing my thoughts. There’s no particular order here, except that looking back I think there is: [ Wesley Hill, Love, Again: On a celibate breakup and what happened after in Comment (vol. 36, issue 2, May 2018).]

1. Emotional fragility

Wesley embodies why regular folks sense that they’re walking on eggshells around malakoi. Throughout the piece, it feels like the diary of a teenage girl: we’re reading someone who thinks (s)he is saying insightful things, someone who is desperate to be unique and interesting, but ultimately is too emotionally fragile for an adult to have a real conversation with, about how these desires and expectations match up to reality.

2. Neediness

The desolate lack of what I think of as “personal gravity” is as palpable as it is pitiable. One of the core elements of being a man is learning self-sufficiency and becoming comfortable with the idea of commanding your own life. You go from being like a moon in your childhood, orbiting your parents, to being like a planet: you still orbit the sun (God), and you may form complex systems with other men, but you are not orbiting them, or anyone; when you meet women, their tendency is to orbit you; and when you marry and have kids, your wife is in your gravity well, rather than you in hers, and your kids are in turn orbiting this binary system.

Wesley is the opposite of this. He has at least dimly realized that orbiting another man, as a woman would, is not on the table for him, after his failed “friendship” with Spencer. But rather than grow up into a man, he has tried to deal with his intense effeminacy by orbiting other binary systems instead. He desperately clings to them in the hope that he can share in their identity. It’s easy to despise this, because it really is detestable, but at the same time he needs mercy. Sadly, he is instead getting enablement from these families.

3. Obliviousness

Despite plainly describing his friendship with Spencer as an unrequited romantic relationship ending in a breakup, Wesley can’t bring himself to the obvious conclusion that there was something really wrong with this. He admits that he can’t be in a relationship like that again, but rather than then acknowledging the biblical reasons why, he defers to it being unfair and unhealthy; he continues to seek healing of his brokenness in relationships with married couples, where it will be emotionally safer. Unfortunately, safety is not the issue.

4. Father starvation

In this vein, it’s hard to tell whether he is more like an adoptive child in arrested development, or more like someone who is pursuing non-sexual polyamory. I suspect a little of both. At the very end, he openly admits that the love he entertains for these couples is analagous to the obviously degrading passions he felt for Spencer (Rom. 1:26). At the same time, his almost obsessive pride in being a godfather shows how desperately he hungers for real fatherhood.

This in itself is telling, since effeminacy seems to be strongly correlated with father failure, and of course the only true solution to it is the fatherhood of God. Wesley, I’m afraid, would rather be a pretend husband in these families than pursue real fatherhood; and while he tries to pass it off as healthy and beautiful and—of all things—sacramental, it is obviously perverse.

5. False approval

It is a sad testament to the state of the assembly that this is not only tolerated and enabled within his own congregation, but has found a wide audience in larger christendom. Rather than recognizing an obviously needy, damaged man with a shameful problem, needing biblically-grounded pastoral care and firm admonition to save his soul from hell, people are falling over themselves to publish the equivalent of Dr. Phil letters and praise his virtue and insight.

6. Assimilation into the world

The fact that the praise heaped on Wesley and his ilk is indistinguishable from that heaped on sodomites by the world at large shouldn’t be terribly surprising. This is depravity in Christian trappings. What is striking is how flimsy the trappings have become. The influence of secular language on Wesley’s writing is conspicuous. He has a “spiritual director” rather, apparently, than a pastor. He talks about “flourishing”—a term of art in utilitarian ethics—as the end of biblical morality, rather than holiness or sanctification. He refuses to use biblical language for his feelings, because obviously that language would condemn them as “degrading passions” and “contrary to nature”—so he chooses rather the positive term “gay.”

Along the same lines, I’ve seen a lot of Revoice apologists recently condemning faithful Christians for taking exception to certain terms, like “sexual orientation.” It can hardly be a coincidence that the same people adopting the language of the world are the ones condemning us for quarreling over words.

7. Denial of creation distinctions

I’ll finish with a broader observation about the general confusion inherent in Wesley, and people like him. Their views, and events like Revoice to celebrate them—are a natural fruit of an existing evangelical theology: namely, the well-established agreement that gender roles are not part of the created order. They are, rather, divinely-imposed exceptions to a general androgyny, which are restricted to the home and church. [ G. Shane Morris, Rules Without Reasons: Why the Culture Is Eating Evangelicals for Lunch (June 2018).]

The logic is straightforward and reasonable: since men and women are generally interchangeable, with only very specific roles being explicitly prohibited by Scripture, then it follows that there’s nothing inappropriate about treating a man as your helpmeet, provided you avoid violating the specific prohibitions on marriage and sex.

If there is no creation principle to say e.g. that being a fireman is a man’s job, then there is no creation principle to say that being a helpmeet is a woman’s job.

The fact that even quite radically feminized evangelicals are able to spot the problem with Revoice suggests that this is a critical time for pushing back against their broader understanding of gender roles. It will either go one way or the other: either they will recognize their inconsistency and turn to a more robust understanding of God’s design for sexuality, or they won’t, and lacking any principle to stand on they’ll slip into approval for spiritual friendship as much as for all the other gender-bending they already affirm.

 10 comments

The Other James

While I think Mr Hill’s dysfunctional level of neediness is plain to many of us, your tone is a bit uncharitable as well.

Most of us have experienced periods in our life where we feel insufficient and needy in ourselves. Even when we grow out of these phases, there will be times where that longing and need still arises. I don’t see where this weakness need imply that one’s soul is in imminent danger.

Further, there is Biblical precedent for suggesting that strong male friendships and even intellectual/emotional intimacy are valid expressions of agape love. (David and Jonathan being the prime example.)

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

The problem is Hill’s unrepentant effeminacy, which he is crowning as sacramental and teaching other men to emulate. So your concern about my tone just comes across like you’re worried that I’m being mean to the wolves.

Brian

I agree with The Other James. Your article is completely uncharitable, I’ll add nauseatingly condescending, and on top of that inaccurate.
Mr. Hill is a man with homosexual desires, who (in the face of today’s culture!) is abstaining from them, and determined to live chastely/celibately, because he clearly understands that is what God demands of him. Right there I want to give him a standing ovation because I’ve never done anything that difficult in my life. On top of that, he goes the next step… he opens up about how he recognized that his intimate friendship really was serving as a surrogate for his romantic desires for men. So he stopped pursuing those too!
Again, this is a man who is open to God’s call. Constantly monitoring his thoughts, desires, and actions, in the hopes of conforming them to God’s will.
He self-admittedly has a deep longing for human relationship (as so many of us do), and is satisfying that in a way he feels is in accordance with God’s law. I have no problem with him forming close friendships with married couples to satisfy his need for human connection in a way that, for him, “avoids the near occasion of sin”. Does he go too far in living with a married couple as a pseudo third parent to their child (basically a Full House type uncle)? Yes. I think that’s very “unhealthy” (sorry, I know you hate that word) for everyone involved, most importantly the child. And you should certainly say that, but you can do that “with gentleness and respect”, as he’s given no indication that he’s unwilling to listen.
But instead you mock him. You “tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but… are not willing to lift a finger to move them.” You photoshop his face on a girl scribbling into her diary. Bravo, tough guy.

Finally, you say – “He has a “spiritual director” rather, apparently, than a pastor.” Yeah, who in the world would ever have a “spiritual director”? http://priestlyformation.org/programs/seminar-for-seminary-spiritual-directors.html

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Mr. Hill is a man with homosexual desires, who (in the face of today’s culture!) is abstaining from them, and determined to live chastely/celibately, because he clearly understands that is what God demands of him.

False. As I have already documented, Hill is at best confused and at worst in open denial about the depraved and defiling nature of his desires.

I’ve never done anything that difficult in my life.

Shocking.

On top of that, he goes the next step… he opens up about how he recognized that his intimate friendship really was serving as a surrogate for his romantic desires for men.

Whereas Paul says that it is shameful to even speak about the things these people do in private, you are praising Hill for making them public.

So he stopped pursuing those too!

No he didn’t; he merely redirected them. Did you read the article? He plainly has no sense of the root of the problem with his relationship with Spencer, and after reluctantly pruning the putrid fruit off the stem, is continuing to water it in different soil.

Again, this is a man who is open to God’s call.

You are the blind defending the blind, unable to discern the difference between openness to God’s call, and lip-service to it.

Constantly monitoring his thoughts, desires, and actions, in the hopes of conforming them to God’s will.

Much like the Pharisees.

He self-admittedly has a deep longing for human relationship (as so many of us do), and is satisfying that in a way he feels is in accordance with God’s law.

How he feels is irrelevant to whether he actually is in accordance with God’s law. That is the problem. He is not—not even close. Like most people today, you have elevated feelings above reality.

And you should certainly say that, but you can do that “with gentleness and respect”, as he’s given no indication that he’s unwilling to listen.

Actually everyone involved in Revoice have repeatedly shown that they are unwilling to listen. They are only interested in “having a conversation” when everyone already agrees with them. You just haven’t been keeping up with the state of play. That’s fine, but you don’t get to then come pretending that you have, and that I’m the one being unreasonable. The Bible says absolutely nothing about being gentle and respectful with false teachers. It says the other thing.

Yeah, who in the world would ever have a “spiritual director”? http://priestlyformation.org/programs/seminar-for-seminary-spiritual-directors.html

Linking me to training in a role invented by an apostate church doesn’t quite underwrite your sarcasm in the way you seem to think it does.

Tom

How would you counsel him/other Christians with unwanted homosexual desires? What would godly living in that situation look like, in your understanding?

David Anderson

The commentors saying that Bnonn’s content is good, but his tone mean, are showing how far the effeminacy rot has got. Important truths of the hour are not meant to be said limply and accompanied by 100 caveats. They are meant to be said forthrightly and unapologetically.

Brian

David – you’re misrepresenting our point. I agree we should be unapologetically firm. That’s different from needless mockery like posting a guy’s face on a picture of a little girl. There’s a difference between limpness and caveats compared to gentleness and charity where it is called for.
Forthrightly and unapologetically is correct, but Sumpter in the link below is a better example of how thats done-
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2018/july/lsquo-cancel-the-conference-rsquo-podcast-hosts-confront-pastor-on-controversial-christian-lgbt-lsquo-revoice-rsquo-event%3famp
(and again, my criticism wasnt just of his tone but of his uncharitable and inaccurate description of Smith’s article overall)