During the live CrossPolitic show recorded at the recent Fight Laugh Feast Conference, Glenn Sunshine described the FLF Network orbit as “militantly joyous.” From what I’ve observed of network show hosts, listeners, conference attendees, speakers, volunteers, and blog readers, the description fits us one hundred percent.
But what is militant joy?
Militant joy is joy set to purpose. It is joy employed to advance the cause of Christ. It has the weight and gravity of the Word of God, the height and breadth of the mission of God, and the levity and laughter of having your sins forgiven.
Militant joy is stubborn, not easily deterred. It is contagious, easily spread.
Militant joy fortifies: it strengthens the troops like a hearty soup and sends them back into battle with their bellies full of laughter and their hearts ablaze.
“The joy of the LORD is your strength.”—Nehemiah 8:10
Militant joy looks at the world on fire and refuses to lose heart, for Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33), and in Him, by faith, we, too, overcome it (1 John 5:4-5). In Christ, we have been brought near to the Father, in whose presence there is fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore (Psalm 16:11).
Militant Joy on Display
Such joy was evident throughout the conference last weekend. The year of our Lord 2020 has been a doozy: a declared global pandemic and its resulting catastrophes, riots in the streets, and the circus surrounding the re-election campaign of one Donald J. Trump.
But I caught not one whiff of fear or fussiness among the speakers or attendees.
Instead, militant joy filled the room. How so? Let me count the ways.
I’ve been to plenty of conferences where I’ve sung. I’ve never been to a conference where they taught me to sing—until Thursday night.
In a room filled with lots of Baptists (including me) and other low-church evangelicals, I’d guess most conference attendees grew up more familiar with the hymns of Fanny Crosby than the psalms of King David or the sons of Korah. And we haven’t sung from sheet music since Bill Clinton was president. The Presbyterians in charge of the conference didn’t care.
And so we sang Before Thee Let My Cry Come Near (Psalm 119) like a regiment in the Lord’s army. Like a commanding officer, Aaron Snell lined us up in formation: basses, you lead the charge; tenors and altos, you enter the battle here; sopranos, you take the high ground.
We sang The Son of God Goes Forth to War, A Mighty Fortress is our God, and a selection of psalms. There were no dimmed lights, no smoke, no projected lyrics, and no band. Just the bellowed voices of Christians whose hearts have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus.
This is what it sounds like when your sins are forgiven:
This is what it sounds like when your sins are forgiven pic.twitter.com/6c3fG08UYZ
— Rhett (@rhett_burns) October 4, 2020
It turns out that a group of postmillennialists aren’t Puddleglums about the world, not even the world in 2020. It turns out that Chestertonian Calvinists actually believed Chesterton when he wrote, “the one perfectly divine thing, the one glimpse of God’s paradise given on earth, is to fight a losing battle—and not lose it.”
This optimism is not the sunny disposition of Saturday morning cartoons nor the slick can-do spirit of a motivational speaker. Rather, it is a confidence in the resurrection and kingship of Jesus Christ to transform the world. It is taking God at His Word that Jesus will put every enemy under his feet (1 Cor 15:25).
Rod Martin made the case that we are living in the greatest time in human history and that the world is only getting better. David Bahnsen warned against a the-sky-is-falling outlook, even if Joe Biden wins the presidency. Douglas Wilson outlined the principles of war that lead to victory.
While the details of the coming years are unclear, and hard times may rumble toward us like a steam engine, our confidence is undeterred because our hope is in Jesus, who has overcome the world.
Instructed to be Cheerful
Militant joy doesn’t just happen. Spontaneous joy might spring up in response to pleasant circumstances, but militant joy remains cheerful even when pressed by hard times and unpleasant circumstances.
Therefore, militant joy must be taught. Both Jesus and Paul commanded believers to rejoice (Matt 5:12, 1 Thess 5:16) no matter what. And imitating Paul as he imitated Jesus, conference speakers instructed us over and again to be cheerful.
As we go about our day, we are not to be fussers and complainers. As we interact with the unbelieving world, we are not to be screechy. When we must be bold, we may not be jerks.
Cheerfulness is our mark, for we are happy warriors. Our cheerfulness should hit others in the face like 400-degree heat when they open the oven door, Wilson said.
Punk Rock Christianity
In his talk, Punk Rock Kuyperianism, David Bahnsen made the point that punk rock is not an aesthetic, but counter-cultural courage and virtue. So, what does punk rock Christianity look like? It looks like singing psalms in four-part harmony; like getting married, making babies, and raising them in the Lord; like planting a church on Mars because, as Rod Martin predicted, a million people will be living and working in space by mid-century. It looks like a barrel of laughs staring down the wrong end of the barrel of a gun.
It looks like militant joy.
What More Shall I Say?
For time would fail me to tell of how the things of earth were celebrated: bread and wine and tacos and a hard day’s work. Of how the conference was teeming with kids: toddlers and teenagers and babies. Of the talented laymen God providentially brought to the conference and has strategically placed in the world: rocket engineers, software developers, and poets. Of how God took Gabe’s idea to create the Rusty Rench Show for local radio in northern Idaho, blessed it, and turned it into the Fight Laugh Feast Network, proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus to the four corners of the world.
Militant joy multiplies. It compounds like interest, builds like momentum, and spreads like a, um, virus. If this year is any indication, we expect a bunch of rowdy Christians to gather in Franklin, TN next October 14-16 for the second annual FLF Conference: The Politics of Sex.
Until then, let us put our hands to good work. Let us sing and laugh and fight and feast and fill the earth with the militant joy of King Jesus.
Rhett Burns (@rhett_burns) is an associate pastor and small business owner living in Greenville, SC with his wife and four kids.
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