“Did you hear what happened to the swan?”

Tucked away in the residential area along suburban Philadelphia’s main line lies the idyllic campus of Eastern College. For the last four years this Christian academic institution has sponsored the Evangelical Roundtable: an attempt to find definition in the ideologically shattered realms of Evangelical-land. “The Roundtable,” says the promotional material, “is designed as a forum for key evangelical leaders.” I’m not sure whether that means that the key Evangelical leaders were the peons in the audience or the fellows they have speaking. I think both. So I guess that makes me one of those who, as the publicity sheet goes on to say, “command a special presence in their respective communities.” I know that after the conference I received much more respect at the breakfast table.

The first years in which the round table was held touched on the issues of the Arab-Israel conflict, the success of Evangelicalism, and the Latin American problem. This year’s conference was on the sanctity of life, a topic which one hopes might provide the basis for unity among Christians against the 20th century’s assault on human dignity. Certainly, one would think. Christians could agree that little babies shouldn’t be turned into pate. But hope against hope.

Unfortunately, the conference displayed the “historical contradictions” now ripping Evangelicalism apart. Unlike the charismatic media-magnates who are destroying Christian witness through their power-perverted addiction to wealth, fame, and unrepentant sin, the Evangelicals are fighting through an identity crisis between their traditionalist catholic, call it Puritan, wing and their mystical, millennialist “imanentizers of the Eschaton.” Having no ecumenical Office for the Repression of Nasty Heresies, Evangelicals have come to tolerate such a variety of weird birds in their nests that they can’t tell a dove from a pig with wings.

Yet it was quite a wingding, and a good time was had by all during the three-day conference. Ted Engstrom, soon to retire as president of World Vision, was a conference M.C., cracking amiable jokes which won him the “Johnny Carson of Evangelicalism” appellation. R.C. Sproul, an orthodox Presbyter and scratch golfer, “the Jack Nicklaus of Evangelicalism,” gave after-breakfast devotions. In fact, there were representatives present from every portion of Christ’s spiritual body. Evangelical Division: Ron Sider, a liberal seamless garment pro-lifer; Kay Cole James, a super articulate public affairs director from the Nahonal Right to Life Committee; John H. Yoder, a clear spoken but humorless pacifist; Harold O.J. Brown, a fuzzy spoken but witty Just-Warrior; and Eastern College’s own Evangelical controversialist, Tony Campolo.

Nothing displayed the spiritual schizophrenia that infects Evangelicalism, however, like some of the speeches on the first day of the conference by Chuck Colson and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. It was like listening to the Apostle Paul and a priestess of Moloch.

Colson was in form. As keynote speaker, he rose to the occasion and, like a master musician, touched the keys which called forth the symphony of biblical orthodoxy. His was the call for human dignity in a world gone mad with Nietzschean will. His was not the philosophy of our moment; but looking back to a Maker, to the ordered creation, to the inerrant revelation of a Maker’s will in history, he traced the theme of human dignity across time, invoking the witness of the saints: Pascal, Solzhenitsyn, Edmund Burke, Walker Percy. He called for the end of our nightmare of ghoulish practices of abortion and genetic engineering and for a return to Christian orthodoxy, to Christian reason, and to Christian living. The choir was delighted.

“Did you hear what happened to the swan?”

Mollenkott rose before us like a goliath to challenge the army of the living God. Just when you thought the old heresies had died out, someone like Virginia Mollenkott steps forward to renew one’s faith in the depravity of man. Er, excuse me, depravity of persons. Antinomianism lives. When the Apostle Paul asked, “Shall we sin that grace may abound?” Virginia said yes.

Dr. Mollenkott, an English professor from Patterson College, is one of those queer birds who call themselves Evangelical while attacking everything that Evangelicalism stands for. She is coauthor with Letha Scanzoni of Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?, a seminal debauchery of scripture which advocates “covenantal homosexuality.” But it is not just chastity that she’s against; she’s against sexism, ageism, elitism, classism—all that bad stuff.

Does she believe in the authority of Scripture? Only as it is validated by her own warped reason and sin-soaked experience. Does she worship the Father through the Son? Only as she remakes the Maker into her image, desexing the Divine Manchild and refashioning the Deity into a She/He/It, a Trinity of Parent, Child, and Significant Cosmic Other. Does she hold to the biblical order of sexuality? Only as it is reinterpreted to allow for what Falwell has called Adam and Steve. And does she affirm the sanctity of human life? Only if it allows us to rip limb from limb the helpless torsos of innocent babes in the womb. “After all,” I heard her say as she held up her fingers to an inch width, “they’re only this big.” Humanity is now determined by size. And what is our size in the hands of God?

Representing the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, and invoking the god called “Will,” this unhappy woman, hater of life, lover of self, worshiper of death, gave forth her Hymn to a Holocaust. “It is our right . . . it is our body . . . it is our choice.” It was the creed of Hell.

And we sat through it. And many clapped. And no young David stood up to sling the stones of refutation: “Thus says the Lord—you shall not murder. Thus says the Lord—you shall do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Thus says the Lord—you shall love your neighbor as yourself. Thus says the Lord—whatever you do to the least of these you have done unto me. Thus says the Lord . . . ” We are too polite for telling people to their faces that they are false prophets and in danger of Hell fire.

“Did you hear what happened to the swan?” he said again. This time I turned to listen.

As the geese fly in across the beautiful lakes which adorn our campus and glide to a peaceful aquatic landing, one is touched by the feeling that all is right with the world. It is all very Browningesque. The white and black swans float gently on the placid ponds. In the little Kingdom of Eastern College, this outpost of Christendom, the shalom of God reigns. All seems otherworldly. But it is not the case.

“Someone kicked to death one of the swans.”

It was like an arrow in the soul. It takes some real will to kill something so beautiful. And swans are not small animals; they’ll fight.

“But that’s not all. They also stomped to death the eggs. Crushed all the eggs in the nest.”

Crushed the signets. Herod. O Ramah. Weep for the children, for they are no more. And they invent new forms of evil. Total depravity. Calvin was right. Tares among the wheat. And Pharaoh slew the children. Wickedness.

As Evangelicalism continues to grant the pulpit to the pro-death forces, one can think of no more fitting parable. Someone crushed the eggs in the nest.