Dancing the Tao: Following Up on Joe Rigney’s Nat Con Talk

Joe Rigney gave a recent and very fine talk at Nat Con in which he said, “The culture war in the present generation is fundamentally about what C. S. Lewis called the Tao.” You might say Rigney rode the Tao as he spoke about the Tao. Which is another way of saying that he was keyed in, on the money, he did an all-around great job and he has left me wanting to make a follow up point. That point is that we not only need to recover the Tao, but we need to recover it in a certain way. But first what is the Tao and what does the culture war have to do with it?

In his book Abolition of Man, Lewis says the Tao is about the doctrine of objective value. If you know the Tao, you know that children are delightful, old men are venerable, and all civilization building begins with making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids. OK, that last observation is mine. But it is in step with “the objective and rational moral order embedded in the cosmos and in human nature”—which is another definition of the Tao via Rigney. Aquinas spoke of natural law, or man’s participation in the eternal law. You could call this wisdom or being godly. Now my follow up point already begins to emerge. We must not only know what a human is, we must be human. We need women who not only identify the key tenants of womanhood, but actually embody those tenants. Same goes for the men, of course.

This embodied Tao, this adorned doctrine, is just what we are missing. The most extreme examples shock us out of our present slumbers. Boston Children’s Hospital is mutilates children under the banner of gender affirming care. Rather than encouraging these youth to become what they are, maturing men and women created in the image of God, they unsheathe their blades and dissect these young ones like a frog in 7th grade biology. As with all black mold infestations, there were preconditions.

Those conditions have been whipped up into the toxic tonic our nation swallows down like a drunk sorority girl at Behemoth U who has forgotten where she comes from and what she is for. Two key ingredients in this recipe include ingratitude and self-love that has shifted into self-loathing. Our present approach to the self looks something like Amnon’s rape of Tamar. It started with infatuation—And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:2). And after Amnon had done violence to her, his lust turned to loathing, “Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her” (2 Samuel 13:15).

In the name of self-care, we flooded the shelves of Barnes and Noble with self-help books only to slice away the sexual organs that produce our kind and cutoff breasts that nurture the same. The result is an ever-increasing line of image-bearers who lament what they and their contractors have done.

Into this devastation and discord, we must not only recover the standard. We must embody the standard. When we do, the body will dance, sing, and laugh. 

One man wants to bring the Tao in like a hammer on a nail. He thinks the law simply comes down from on high. He lives as if the law is still written on tablets of stone and he approaches those tablets while neglecting the author who carved them. Another man wants something more organic, more fluid. But he ends up depersonalizing the standard in another way. He imagines away the author, claiming that the standard is merely a principle, a song, an aroma to be found in the world. 

But we Christians know the Father who speaks. We know the song-writer and the chef. He has written his law on our hearts in a new covenant by his Spirit. And the Spirit is no impersonal force. He is Living Water. He is a well of water within his people springing up into everlasting life (John 4:14). 

The world is very much out of accord with the Tao. Our nation evidences that it is being given over to a debased mind to do what is contrary to nature. But another way to say the same thing is to say that the nation is thirsty. It is dying of thirst. 

The fruit of this Living Water is love, joy, and peace. When a man by faith bears such fruit, he participates in the eternal law, the natural law is seen walking down the street, cooking in the kitchen, laughing around the table, and there is nothing more supernatural. When we dance the Tao, it is hard for the unbelieving to ignore:

“There were about half a dozen men and Shasta had never seen anyone like them before . . . Most of them had legs bare to the knee. Their tunics were of fine, bright, hardy colors—woodland green, or gay yellow, or fresh blue . . . instead of being grave and mysterious like most Calormenes, they walked with a swing and let their arms and shoulders go free, and chatted and laughed. One was whistling. You could see that they were ready to be friends with anyone who was friendly and didn’t’ give a fig for anyone who wasn’t. Shasta thought he had never seen anything so lovely in his life.”[1]

[1] C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy, Loc. 615