I’m a Montanan and will be until I die. But, much to my shame, I’ve only been one for 15 years which means – by Montana standards – I’ll never be a real local. But that’s okay; my little hamlet in Eastern Montana has accepted me just fine, except for a few contrarians, am liked well enough. Pastoring the same church for 15 years that’s primarily known for feeding the hungry and generally being kind to people has helped mitigate the reputational dangers of being outspoken on issues of political importance.
I grew up in the Ozark Mountains, among a different breed of mountain folk than what one might find in the Montana Rockies, but among mountain folk nonetheless. What I’ve discovered is that rural “red” America is rural “red” America really no matter where you go. We all have the same rules: Be polite. Mind your manners. Mind your business. Help your neighbors. Keep your guns loaded. View outsiders with a skunk-eye, just in case. You know, stuff like that. And so acclimating to Montana hasn’t been that hard, except in the case of the Eastern Montana prairie, the lack of trees has been a challenge. This took some getting used to.
Down in what we call “the hills” of the Ozarks we’ve only got the whitetail deer, who God gave a supreme sense of hearing and smell and who hide among the brush. As a lifelong hunter, I suppose I learned a thing or two from those critters. But the “mulie” deer of Montana, I’ve discovered, have a whole other set of instincts God gave them. They don’t smell as well, and they don’t hear as well, and they’re certainly easier to stalk than a whitetail. But those critters have eyesight that’s downright supernatural, and so instead of burrowing down in the brush like their whitetail cousins, they sit up high on the hillside – ever so still – and watch for the predator coming; then they’re usually over the hill before you can see a flash of white on their behind. I don’t remember the last time it took more than one shell to harvest a mulie, usually because a mere flap of the ear gave them away while they stoically were laying down looking for predators on four legs instead of two. But trust me, there’s been plenty a time they’ve seen me before I saw them, and never a shot was fired.
The point is, the prairie made me nervous at first, but over time I took on the mulie instinct. After living in the prairie now 15 years, I enjoy the fact that I can see the enemy coming. I don’t have to hide; I can just watch across 264 miles of the prairie (the distance from my house to Billings) to watch the leftist, latte-sipping, soy-mustached skinny-jeans-wearing hippies that litter much of Western Montana and enjoy the fact there’s not an Uber that can bring them this far. And goodness knows, their electric cars can’t make it.
But as a kid, back in those Ozark Mountains, my dad had an expression he used 100% of the time when saying goodbye to us kids. The term was, “watch your feet.” You see, the Ozarks have something I was happy to leave behind to venture to the Last Best Place. It doesn’t have many leftists, but it has its share of copperhead and cottonmouth snakes (boy, do I hate the latter).
So whether I was headed out at 10-years-old into the woods with my Remington 22 bolt action to wander around like a free human (God bless the old days), or whether I was headed off for another week at college years later, my dad would use the term, “watch your feet” to say goodbye. You see, there are snakes in those weeds. Here in Montana, we’ve just the occasional rattler, and the grass is a little bit more sparse. But they’re here, too. They’re just a different kind, but a snake is a snake.
But in reality, the old man’s expression didn’t just refer to the slithering kind of snake. He meant to be aware of your surroundings. Look around. And these days, when I talk to the old man and he knows the stuff I get into – like being sued by tranny-folk for “misgendering them,” or writing an expose’ on James Riady funding Critical Race Theory in American seminaries, or making mad a prominent public figure for torching them in a news article he means look around. Watch your feet.
My hillbilly dad is right. There are snakes in those weeds, and they’ll bite you if they get half the chance. I sometimes wonder if that constant expression of his was as formative for my life’s work as anything else besides maybe the Bible and my grandma’s use of the switch.
Whether polemics or politics, I’ve come to the conclusion that snakes are afoot. In evangelicalism, those snakes are men like Albert Mohler, who like an Ozark copperhead blend into his conservative surroundings, but has poisoned fangs and bites. Or in Montana politics, it’s men like Llew Jones and his Solutions Caucus who masquerade as Republicans, but inwardly are Democrats who will bite your ankle if you aren’t first wise enough to slap them across the head first with a good rock (I speak in metaphor, probably).
Either way, most people I’ve trekked within the woods are busy looking straight ahead, enjoying their surroundings without a care in the world. My dad taught me better than that. Dangers persist. And those dangers are often hidden, and right in front of you.
In polemics or politics, and it’s really all the same, it’s about situational awareness. Who lurks in the shadows? What is hiding underneath that rock?
The antipathy between man and snake has existed since the Garden…
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel (Genesis 3:15).
In case you’re unaware, this verse is about Jesus and Satan. The short exegesis of this is as follows; the Son of Man – Christ, who took on flesh and became both God and human – will be bit by the devil. But have no fear; Jesus fights back and is aiming for the head.
We know how Jesus fought back, and it was on a cross upon which he was crucified, buried, and resurrected. And one day, he’s coming to fight once more, and will rule the world with a rod of iron and make his enemies into footstools (Luke 20:43).
Until then, there are still plenty of snakes slithering about our feet. The Bible warns of this. Heck, Jesus referred to his enemies as “snakes and a brood of vipers” (Matthew 23:23). Surely this applies to the men in politics and evangelicalism who are not who they say they are.
So no matter what Gideon Knox publication you’re reading this in – polemical or political – know that our major goal is to watch your feet, point out the snakes, and if possible, break their skull. The enmity between the children of men and serpents persists, and day-by-day, every day, our publications will tell you where those snakes are and give you fair warning to avoid them.
[Editor’s Note: From Gideon Knox Group publisher, JD Hall]