There’s an Arabian parable that most of us have heard in one form or another about the camel and the tent. I am going to retell it more or less as I heard, with some fillips of my own just to make it more interesting. A wandering desert nomad named Abdul decided to bed down for the night. Deserts, as you might know, tend to be hot during the day, and to cool down rapidly once the sun sets. This particular night, it got unusually cold, and Abdul was grateful for his little tent. His faithful camel, as usual, was sleeping outside. Well, not really sleeping, he was restless and cold, and decided to share the tent with Abdul. Since sharing was not in his job description, camel had to be subtle, and adopted the strategy of gradualism.
Abdul was suddenly awakened by a wet nose and bad breath in his face. Camel was poking his nose in the tent, and as sweetly as possible, asked, “master Abdul, my nose is so cold, I beg you to be compassionate and allow me to warm my nose inside the tent.” Abdul, remembering camel’s years of faithful service, thought “what harm can it do to share my tent with my camel’s nose?” So he let the camel keep his nose inside the tent. Abdul fell asleep quickly, but in moments was awakened by a nudge. Camel’s nose was followed by his big head and long neck, such things being attached. “Compassionate master, the night is yet colder and my ears are freezing. Please allow my head and neck to share the tent, along with my nose and you.” Camel asked, while looking at Abdul with those big, liquid eyes. Once again, Abdul showed his mercy. “Can I refuse such a reasonable request from my faithful companion? No, I will allow it.”
Camel, though an animal, understood the strategy of gradualism better than compassionate Abdul. Soon the nose, head and neck were followed by the forelegs, and with each request granted, Abdul found it harder to deny the next request. If he could share his tent with camel’s nose, why not his head and neck, and then why not his forelegs, then his thorax, then his back legs? Soon, Abdul woke up shivering. He found that camel had his entire body inside the tent, leaving no room for Abdul. I never found out what happened after Abdul was completely outside and camel was completely inside. I believe the tale ends there. However, the lesson does not.
A 1909 essay by John B. West, founder of the West legal classification system, used the metaphor to describe the difficulty of trying to insert an otherwise innocuous set of facts into a rigid legal system: “it is the old story of the camel’s head in the tent. What seems at first a plausible pretense for forcing some novel case or new principle into a topic or subdivision to which it does not naturally belong, leads to hopeless confusion.” In a 1915 book of fables by Horace Scudder, the story titled The Arab and His Camel ends with the moral: “It is a wise rule to resist the beginnings of evil.”
I will let that last statement digest awhile. Evil usually begins innocuously, be it any dictator, movement, or legal and political strategies. If the true aims of a dictator or a movement of domination were recognized in the beginning, it would be easy and effective to resist. The bombastic people are rarely the most fearsome in the end, rather it’s those who conceal their aims under the cloaks (cliches?) of compassion, fairness, inclusiveness, and equality who are able to steal the tent before you know it. The strategy I called gradualism aims to overthrow the existing order, whatever it may be, by subversive “education”, taking the form of: introduction of new words into the common vocabulary or changing the definitions of words; endless beating of the drums of those four words in bold as the rationale for changing perceptions.
A Scottish pastor/blogger I follow, David Robertson, recommended a book called That Hideous Strength, by Melvin Tinker, from which I quote:
“A manual of sorts for this kind of campaign was a book, Kirk and Madsen’s After the ball: How America Will Conquer It’s Fear and Hatred of Gays in the 90’s. Kirk and Madsen combined psychiatry and public relations expertise to set out their strategy. They advocated a gradualist approach (getting the nose in the tent) before going on to use three ploys.
1. Desensitization – Create a flood of pro-homosexual advertising, presented in the least offensive fashion.
2. Jamming – More active and aggressive than desensitisation. Aim to produce ’emotional dissonance’. Portray those who are traditional in their stance as KKK type right-wing homophobes. Make sure that anyone who dares to disagree with your agenda is automatically labelled in this way. Ensure that a reasonable case against your position is never presented – always ensure it is the extremes.
3. Conversion – Desensitization lets the watch run down; jamming throws sand in the works, but conversion reverses the spring so that the hands run backwards. In advocating this approach they actually taught that it was okay to lie (because they had been lied about). ‘It makes no difference that the ads are lies; not to us because we are using them to ethically good effect. to counter negative stereotypes that are every bit as much.’
“As Goebbels knew there were three characteristics to propaganda – rely on emotional manipulation, use lies and be subjective and one-sided.’ Kirk and Marsden saw the church as the major obstacle and so should be attacked and undermined in every way possible (although I would suggest that the church had already been undermined by the presence of false teachers who were only too happy to go along with the worlds agenda).”
Sound familiar? It should, it’s exactly what happened. Desensitization always begins with a plea for understanding and tolerance; it usually ends with the camel in the tent that used to be Abdul’s. Shame on the church, by which I mean everyone who accepts the Bible as the word of God. Jesus said to Peter in Matthew 16:18, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Gates are purely defensive, to repel invaders. When Jesus says they “shall not prevail”, he is saying that his church will not be repelled by the gates of hell. That means the church is expected to attack, not defend. Since Jesus’ words WILL prevail, the camel had better not celebrate victory yet.