Archive | Culture

The baker who refused to make wedding cake appears on “The View”

If you are unfamiliar with this story, see my previous post on the topic. Just a few thoughts about this appearance on “The View”:

1. The ladies from “The View” were respectful in this exchange. That cannot always be said in left-leaning pop-culture venues that are typically dismissive of religious liberty claims. That they gave a platform to Jack and Kristen is a win for religious liberty.

2. The baker Jack Phillips and attorney Kristen Waggoner acquitted themselves quite well in this exchange. And this is not exceptional among Christians in the wedding industry who are behind the eight ball right now with religious liberty claims. Most of these people are just normal folks who own small businesses but who can’t lend their creative expression to help celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony.

3. Kristen is right. If the government can force Jack Phillips to create a message that contradicts his beliefs, then the state can coerce anyone to violate their conscience. Religious liberty is not just for Christians but for everyone. As Russell Moore has recently argued, “Religious Freedom is for Non-Christians Too.”

I think McEnroe is taking heat for no good reason

Earlier this evening, I saw John McEnroe’s interview with CBS News anchors who grilled him about some remarks he made about Serena Williams (see above). McEnroe said in an interview with NPR on Sunday that he believed that Serena Williams would be ranked about 700th in the world if she were playing on the men’s circuit. The anchors suggest that McEnroe is denigrating Serena Willams’s success, that he owes her an apology, and that he made the remark in order to increase his book sales.

McEnroe refuses to apologize, and I think he was right to do so. If you look at the NPR interview, it is clear that McEnroe was not denigrating Serena Williams. He was asked a pointed question, and he gave an honest answer. Read it for yourself:

Garcia-Navarro: We’re talking about male players but there is of course wonderful female players. Let’s talk about Serena Williams. You say she is the best female player in the world in the book.

McEnroe: Best female player ever — no question.

Garcia-Navarro: Some wouldn’t qualify it, some would say she’s the best player in the world. Why qualify it?

McEnroe: Oh! Uh, she’s not, you mean, the best player in the world, period?

Garcia-Navarro: Yeah, the best tennis player in the world. You know, why say female player?

McEnroe: Well because if she was in, if she played the men’s circuit she’d be like 700 in the world.

Garcia-Navarro: You think so?

McEnroe: Yeah. That doesn’t mean I don’t think Serena is an incredible player. I do, but the reality of what would happen would be I think something that perhaps it’d be a little higher, perhaps it’d be a little lower. And on a given day, Serena could beat some players. I believe because she’s so incredibly strong mentally that she could overcome some situations where players would choke ’cause she’s been in it so many times, so many situations at Wimbledon, The U.S. Open, etc. But if she had to just play the circuit — the men’s circuit — that would be an entirely different story.

McEnroe did not denigrate Serena Williams. On the contrary, he called her the greatest female tennis player of all time. McEnroe did not bring the issue up to increase book sales. On the contrary, the NPR reporter raised the question. McEnroe merely answered the questions by stating the obvious. 

It is a fact that men generally have greater muscle mass, denser bone structure, and taller frames than women. That means that male athletes are generally bigger and faster and stronger than their female counterparts. Is McEnroe really supposed to apologize for saying something that everyone already knows to be true? I hope not.

This little episode reveals just how much our culture’s understanding of male and female has shifted. Because of transgenderism or as in this case feminism, people are increasingly willing (and even expected) to overlook the biological realities that distinguish men and women. The result of this drift is that what used to be considered common sense is now considered insensitive. That is what caught McEnroe by surprise. But it doesn’t make what he said any less true. It just reveals a cultural drift toward the absurd.

Mainstreaming fornication (a.k.a. “ethical non-monogamy”)

Over the weekend, I came across one of the saddest interviews I have ever seen (see above). It’s an interview on The New York Times Magazine website that features five “non-monogamous” men and women. All five of the persons are involved in sexual relationships with others in the group and with many others outside the group. There are two married couples in the group, and one woman who has no legal tie to either of the couples. The interview describes what their non-monogamous marriages are like, and how they make their marriages work.

What is really sad about this interview is that the dysfunctionality of these relationships is apparent even though it is being presented as simply a new and enlightened way of imagining marriage. In one couple, the husband says he agreed to non-monogamy only when his philandering wife said that she wanted an open marriage. He knew that the only way he could keep from losing his wife was to agree to this arrangement, and that is what he did. Nevertheless, the husband still gets jealous, and he still worries that a more attractive or more wealthy man might take his wife away from him.

In the other couple, the wife seems concerned about the other women her husband is seeing. Nevertheless, she agrees to the open marriage as well and is seeking out her own relationships outside the marriage. But still, she seems uneasy about the whole thing.

One woman is not married but is having an affair with one of the husbands in the group. She is doing this while also carrying on affairs with a number of other men and women not included in the interview. And even though she too has agreed to these “open” relationships, she worries that she doesn’t have a “nesting” partner like the other two couples in the interview. She is a loner in the “open” relationships, and has no legal tie to anyone. She worries that she will grow old and never have a “nesting” partner.

None of the five people in the interview express any moral qualms about what they are doing. Nevertheless, the dysfunction and insecurity are there for anyone to see. The worry about someone stealing their “nesting” partner away. The desire to have a “nesting” partner. What are these but a desire for some semblance of fidelity and faithfulness?

In spite of the slick presentation, there is no avoiding the fact that these relationships are a mess. And they are that way because we were not made for so-called “open marriages” nor for “ethical non-monagamy” (yes, that’s what they call it). Something will always feel wrong in sexual relationships that lack covenant and fidelity. Having a “nesting” partner is just not the same.

What does it say about our culture that The New York Times Magazine sees fit to mainstreaming these relationships? What does it say about us that we are becoming more and more accustomed to this kind of fare in popular culture? Things have changed and are changing, but not for the better. But feature stories like this one make you wonder if anyone has noticed.

“Professing to be wise, they became fools… Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them” (Romans 1:22, 24).

Christians are rightly grieved to see the perversions that are being mainstreamed in our culture. Our culture has not only rejected the heterosexual norm of marriage, but also the norm of monogamy. There is every reason to believe that every other norm will be tested as well. They already are.

The interview above reveals an attempt to sanctify promiscuity by calling it marriage. Nevertheless, marriage is not an infinitely elastic institution that can be reshaped and redefined according to individual tastes. It is not something that can be customized to include unfaithfulness and adultery within its purview. Marriage is the covenantal, conjugal union of one man and one woman for life. Any arrangement outside of that divinely ordained structure will eventually lead to frustration and pain. We cannot alter the nature of marriage, though some are certainly trying. And they do so to their own hurt.

U2: The concert was great–a little preachy, but still great

It’s hard to believe that I have been listening to U2 for over 30 years. It’s also hard to believe that I’ve never made it to one of their showstopping live performances until just last night. My wife and I bought our tickets months ago, just after they went on sale. So we have been anticipating this for quite some time.

I know Bono did not want this tour to be about nostalgia, but for us it certainly was. We wanted to hear them play the old stuff, and that’s exactly what they did. It was lump-in-your-throat spectacular. In fact, I got a little verklempt when “Where the Streets Have No Name” began to ring out (see video above). It was unbelievable. As Bono began singing, a giant UPS jet flew so close to the stadium that it looked like it might land on us. It slightly terrified everyone, which I think only added to the excitement of the performance.

Anyway, our overall experience was a good one. We are earbud consumers of music these days, and it’s good to experience an event with enough subwoofers to shake your insides while you listen. It was a fantastic show. One that we will never forget.

I am not going to write a proper music review here. Nor am I going to reflect on the legacy of the iconic album “The Joshua Tree” (for that, read Mike Cosper’s excellent piece). My aim is to offer some reflections that have less to do with the music itself than with the message of the performance. And there is no question that U2 is trying to deliver a message on this tour.

1. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Bono said that he wanted to bring the “The Joshua Tree” into 2017. Songs like “Bullet the Blue Sky” were originally written to critique President Reagan’s foreign policy in South America back in the 80’s. Bono wanted to take such messages and apply them to current events. But he says that he wanted to do so without alienating red state America who voted for Donald Trump. In his own words, Bono says:

I also think it’s very, very important that people who voted for Donald Trump feel welcome at our show. I think they have been hoodwinked, but I understand and I would not dismiss the reasons why some people voted for him. I think people on the left really need to put their ear closer to the ground. I do this thing where I say, “The party of Lincoln, the party of Kennedy and those in between holding on, those letting go of the American Dream are welcome.” This is the most important line: “We’ll find common ground by reaching for higher ground.”

Even though the political critique wasn’t as severe as it could have been, it was nevertheless very clear. You have to appreciate the effort to mute the criticism, but it was still there. Any Trump voter paying attention would have understood that Bono was coming down on their guy.

2. Related to that last point, Bono fans tend to treat him like a religious leader. When he speaks, there is a worshipful hush and a nodding of heads as the sage holds forth. Bono must be accustomed to this kind of reverence because he presses into it. This show was without question the most preachy one I have ever attended. Don’t get me wrong, I think Bono is a good man. I admire his compassion, his commitment to relieving suffering around the world, his emphasis on forgiveness and love. He puts his money where his mouth is. I think he is sincere and good, and I do not wish to critique him personally.

Still, I couldn’t help but feel there was more platitude than substance. For example near the end of the show, Bono exhorted all of us that we needed to put aside what divides us. It doesn’t matter if you’re from the left or from the right, from the blue or from the red. If we can all just focus on the “one” thing that is more valuable than anything else, we could all be united in spite of our differences. And then he concludes that we all just need to focus on the “one.” And then he went into the song “One” with no further explanation of what the “one” is. It felt like that moment in City Slickers when Curly tells Billy Crystal that the secret of life is “one” thing but then doesn’t tell him what the one thing is. Bono insists that we need to be united in our commitment to the “one,” but he gives us not one clue what principle unites us.

The end result of this leaves you feeling pretty thin. What principle or person could possibly make us put aside our differences? What could possibly make war and poverty cease in the world? What could move the human heart to love when it is currently so given to hate? Inspiring as it is, it is not going to be a U2 concert. Nor is going to be the force of Bono’s personality. Nor is it going to be the music. Bono leaves it to us to find the “one” thing that will put everything right. It seems to me that the “one” thing isn’t a principle but a Person–Jesus Christ the savior of the world. Perhaps that is what Bono wishes to imply. It is hard to tell, however, when he lionizes personalities and principles that foment the very division that he wishes to overcome. Which leads to one final observation.

3. The encore for this show is an ode to women activists. As the band plays “Ultraviolet,” there is a giant screen featuring the likes of Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, and Ellen Degeneres. As I was watching these faces light up screen, I couldn’t help but think: “Hmm. I think one of these things is not like the other.” But Bono explains his rationale:

The future is about women. I really believe that, so let’s make it an ode to women. As you know, feminine spirit is crucial at times when the male hegemony is causing mayhem. After the Second World War, people like John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, whoever … Marvin Gaye, say – that’s a feminine spirit. The 1960s was a feminine spirit, and the 1960s was born in the rubble of the Second World War.

Great leaps forward of consciousness have a feminine spirit. Men start to look like [women], they grow their hair long. It’s a funny thing, the Renaissance. … Whenever you see the feminine spirit there’s usually a jump in consciousness. In the One Campaign we’re leading with, “Poverty is sexist.” It’s a campaign run by women. And I’m just watching, stepping back, to be the kind of town crier that I used to be. I’m still banging on drums, but I’m in the background. The singers are women. I’m amazed by it.

The actual execution of this “ode to women” is pretty heavily tilted toward pop culture icons. But it was very clear that second and third wave feminists are also prominent–Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, etc. And yet, the movement that Steinem and Friedan represent has given us one of the most divisive ideologies on the planet. Whatever your opinion of feminism, we can all agree that it is not the “one” principle that unites us. Not by a long shot.

Bottom line: This was a fantastic concert, and we enjoyed every minute of it even if it was a bit preachy. We didn’t come for that anyway. We came for great music delivered by one of the best bands of all time. That is what we got, and it was a fantastic show.

“The Gospel according to Glennon”: What gospel?

Elle magazine has published a long-form essay on famous mommy-blogger Glennon Doyle Melton. Until Melton divorced her husband and came out as a lesbian last year, I really didn’t even know who she was. Even so, she has been a popular blogger and writer for a number of years, especially among women. Her openness about her imperfect life has endeared her to millions of readers, many of whom are Christians. Anyway, the Elle feature tells her story, which I won’t rehearse here. I encourage you to read the piece for the full account. Nevertheless, I would offer a handful of reflections on the essay:

1. I have never been a reader of Melton, so I am coming at this as someone with very little knowledge of her. Still, it is striking that for someone who was billed as a “Christian” writer, there is nothing about her in this article that would suggest that she held to the Christian gospel. Maybe she did at some point. But it is absent even in the part that narrates her “conversion.” Perhaps readers more familiar with her work can weigh-in on this, but I still thought that was a conspicuous absence.

2. Even before her coming-out, this article says that her fellow travelers were the likes of Rob Bell and other pop-spirituality/self-help gurus. It also says that she has been a member of the United Church of Christ–a “church” that sanctifies sexually immoral relationships. Were these items red flags to Christian readers before her coming-out? It seems like they should have been.

3. The author of the article emphasizes that Melton’s authenticity and openness about her imperfect “messy” life is what made her so popular–even among non-Christians. It seems that there is a lesson in this. An air of “authenticity” and “messiness” is no substitute for authentic Christian faithfulness. We would all do well to learn how to tell the difference. 

4. The story of Melton’s coming-out was particularly sad–and perhaps even a little bit dishonest. Melton did not merely come out as a lesbian. She divorced her husband to pursue a relationship with a woman that she had fallen in love with. Her husband’s description of his experience is worth considering in his own words:

As for Craig, he remembers receiving an urgent text message from Glennon one afternoon, saying she had something very serious to discuss. “It sounded like 911, like Code Red,” he tells me over the phone. “I rushed home. On the way, I was thinking, Either she has cancer, or she’s gay.” (Obviously Craig isn’t as clueless as he’s sometimes portrayed to be.)

When he found out it wasn’t cancer, “I hit the floor bawling,” he says. “I was just so happy she wasn’t going to die.” Then came a wave of “sadness, confusion, and anger,” he says. “I thought we had been doing things the right way. Both of us had been working on ourselves. We’d entered a phase that was supposed to be a new life for us. It was a shock. It felt like the end of the world.”

But eventually, Craig says, he felt he had no choice but to accept his new reality. Glennon and Abby are, after all, “two women following their hearts,” he says, slipping into Glennon-speak. “Isn’t that what life is all about? Finding true love? If Glennon is happy, and Abby is happy, and the kids are thriving, what’s wrong with that?” Now he shares joint custody of the children with Melton, and he recently accepted a new job in technology sales.

There’s no question that both spouses played a part in the dissolution of the marriage. But still, it is striking that Craig is unable to lament the end of his marriage. He is obviously grieved over the loss, but he does not even hint that anything wrong has happened. Because his wife fell in love with a woman, she is to be celebrated for divorcing him. But would people be celebrating the divorce in the same way if she had left him for another man? Probably not. Why? Because “coming-out” and embracing gay identity is seen as sacrosanct in our culture–even more holy than the covenant of marriage. Even more important than maintaining one’s wedding vows.

The result is that the divorce gets whitewashed. Its impact on the husband and children is almost completely a non-factor in the story. The central factor is Melton’s personal happiness and self-fulfillment. And that is why so many of her readers feel empowered to pursue divorce instead of sticking it out through tough times in their own marriages. Here is a telling comment from a marriage counselor interviewed for the article:

“She puts a knot in my stomach,” says couples therapist Michele Weiner-Davis, whose latest book is called Healing From Infidelity. “I can’t count how many times I hear women quoting her when they come into my office. On the positive side, she wants to empower women. But the fact is, most people don’t do divorce all that well, especially when children are involved. She’s strengthening their conviction that they need to get away from their husbands, instead of learning to work through challenging issues. Sometimes you have to be a warrior to stay.”

5. If this article is accurate, what is left of Melton’s “Christian” faith cannot be reasonably described as authentically Christian. The article says,

She’s equally enthused about her new role as a pillar of the progressive opposition movement. Since leaving Craig for Wambach—who stumped for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has been an advocate for women’s equality and LGBTQ causes—Melton has recast herself as a leader of the Christian resistance to Trump. “It’s one of the best parts of our relationship,” Melton says. “We wake up in the morning, and we literally say to each other: ‘Coffee and revolution.’?”

To that end, Melton has stopped blogging about floor crap and started blogging about Black Lives Matter and the need for intersectionality. These days, when she reminds her followers that they “can do hard things,” she’s not talking about scraping Play-Doh off the rug but about helping children in Aleppo—or calling your congressperson. “I realized I didn’t just want to parent children in my own little home, but to mother the whole world,” Melton says. “What’s the point of gaining influence if you’re not going to use it?”

Mother to the world? Wow. But what is she bequeathing to her “children”? It’s not the faith once for all delivered to the saints, but sadly something else altogether.

Watch Senator Bernie Sanders tell a Christian that his faith disqualifies him from office

By now you have probably heard about what happened to Russell Vought, a Christian who appeared before the Senate Budget Committee (see above). When it was Senator Bernie Sanders’ turn to question Vought, he excoriated Vought for believing what Christians have always believed–that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved from condemnation. Not only did Senator Sanders attack this basic Christian belief, he also said that Vought’s belief made him unfit for office. Here’s how the exchange ends:

SANDERS: You think your statement that… they do not know God because they rejected Jesus Christ, His Son, and they stand condemned, do you think that’s respectful of other religions?

VOUGHT: Senator, I wrote a post based on being a Christian and attending a Christian school that has a statement of faith that speaks clearly in regard to the centrality of Jesus Christ in salvation.

SANDERS: I would simply say, Mr. Chairman, that this nominee is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about.

And so Senator Sanders closes his testimony saying that no one in this country should be believing what Christians have always believed–that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved. If Senator Sanders is right, then no faithful Christian would ever again be qualified for public office. Moreover, no faithful Christian would even be qualified to be an American. Why? Because what Senator Sanders finds so offensive is precisely what all orthodox Christians believe. To put it in Jesus’ own words:

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:17-18).

The heart of the Christian faith is this. All people are born sinners and for that reason are under condemnation. Because of this, all of us need to be saved from condemnation. God sends his Son Jesus into the world to save sinners from condemnation and to reconcile them to God. Jesus took our condemnation for us by dying on the cross, for in Christ God “condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). The only way for sinners to escape condemnation and to be reconciled to God is through Jesus–which is why Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6).

If it is un-American to believe this (as Senator Sanders suggests), then it is un-American to be a Christian because this teaching is at the very essence of our faith. Make no mistake, any Christian who agrees to the terms stipulated by Senator Sanders can in no sense remain a faithful Christian. In Senator Sanders’ America, one can be a Christian or be a good citizen, but he cannot be both. I can hardly imagine a position more corrosive of religious liberty than this.

Article VI of the United States Constitution forbids precisely what Senator Sanders is doing in this line of questioning—imposing a religious test on a nominee for public office. Article VI states “…no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.” And yet here is Senator Sanders demanding that a nominee for public office betray his faith in order to gain that office. Disgraceful.

Watch the video above. You have to see it to believe it.

Farmer banned from selling produce at market because of his views on marriage

I can hardly believe the report in the video above is true, but it is. Steve Tennes is a farmer who has been selling his produce for the last seven years at the farmer’s market in East Lansing, Michigan. Recently, he was asked on Facebook about his beliefs about marriage. Steven and his family are Roman Catholic, and so he answered with the 2,000-year old teaching of his church.

Somehow, the city of East Lansing got a hold of the Facebook post. As a result, the city decided not to invite him back to participate in the Farmer’s Market. So Tennes reapplied with the city to be included as a vendor. And the city wrote him back and informed him that he would not be allowed to participate in the Farmer’s Markert because of his beliefs about marriage. The rejection had nothing to do with his products or his business but everything to do with his religious beliefs.

If you think recent concerns about religious liberty among evangelicals is much ado about nothing, here’s yet one more piece of mounting evidence that this is much ado about something–something precious that is being lost. Is it really the case that a municipal government can punish citizens and exclude them from public space simply because of their religious beliefs? If so, something is lost indeed–America’s first freedom.

Dating apps and greasing the skids on human lust

A really sad essay appeared in The New York Times last week titled “Wanting Monogamy as 1,946 Men Await My Swipe.” It is another sad story about the emotional and spiritual dead-end of the so-called “hook-up” culture. It is the first person account of a young woman and her experience with dating apps. Even though she knows that the men available on dating apps are only looking for one thing, she decides to take the plunge anyway. She ends up meeting a guy, having a 6-week tryst, falling for him, expressing her wish to be more than his Monday-night-girl, and then having her heart broken as he tells her that he has no desire for “monogamy” with her or anyone else. And so the sad affair ends with a sad young woman going back to her dating app and finding that there are 1,946 men waiting for her to swipe.

This is a sad read for obvious reasons. But what struck me about it was the conclusion. You would think that perhaps she learned a lesson about the dangers of easy hook-ups on dating apps. But that is not at all what she concludes. This is:

It’s easy to dismiss dating apps as insincere, objectifying and sketchy. But in the end, they did do one thing for me. They introduced me to Michael, someone I was willing to bend the rules for, someone I was actually able to admit I liked. And maybe there is hope in that.

Hope in the fact that there is a technology that facilitates selfish promiscuity and bad faith? Wow. I have to say that this is not the conclusion that jumps out at me.

What does jump out at me is that this story illustrates in spades that the sexual revolution makes promises that it can never keep. By separating sex from the marriage covenant, it hasn’t made people happier or freer but more lonely and alienated than they ever were before. Fidelity, covenant, an old man holding the hand of his wife on her deathbed after a lifetime of love and loss and faithfulness. These things don’t come from the fast fornication of dating apps. We were made for so much more than a degrading technology that greases the skids on human lust (1 Cor. 6:18-20). But so few in our culture seem able to see it—even when the pain caused by it is so evident.

Check Your Privilege

I mentioned a few weeks ago, that I’ve been doing some reading on intersectionality and identity politics. One item that I have observed in this reading is the tendency among some to assign moral guilt based not on moral action but based on identity.

The thinking goes like this. If a person possesses a privileged identity (e.g., straight, male, abled, etc.), that person benefits from an unjust system of social privilege. Therefore, the person benefitting is morally guilty of injustice just by virtue of possessing the so-called privileged identity.

A few weeks ago, I came across a column in the Harvard Crimson that illustrates the point. In this column, Nian Hu is warning women to “Beware of the Male Feminist.” She writes:

What these male feminists fail to realize is that, as men, they will always be oppressors. No matter how many feminist marches they attend or how much feminist literature they read, they are not exempt from perpetuating the subordination of women. Their support of the women’s movement does not erase the fact that they, on an individual level, are capable of harassing, assaulting, or silencing women—nor that, on a structural level, they continue to benefit from a system that establishes male dominance at the expense of women. And even though male allies may genuinely feel guilty, they will continue to benefit from male privilege. The patriarchy does not offer special exceptions for men with good intentions. Men, as a class, are culpable for misogyny, and male allies are no different and no less capable of demeaning women through their words, actions, and complicit silence.

Notice what she argues here. One does not have to commit an act of oppression to be guilty of oppression. One merely has to be “capable of harassing, assaulting, or silencing women.” Just by virtue of being male, therefore, every man is guilty. And no amount of feminist allyship or “good intentions” can erase the stain of his guilt. “Men, as a class, are culpable for misogyny.”

As I have been reading through some of this material, I’ve become more and more convinced that Christians are going to have to think carefully about some key concepts that are driving articles like the one above. We are going to have to think carefully and biblically about identity, privilege, allyship, intersectionality, and a host of other related topics that are driving the conversation in the culture today.

To that end, Jonathan Leeman has a really helpful post over at The Gospel Coalition helping us to think through the issue of privilege: “Identity Politics, White Privilege, and Gospel Peace.” Jonathan is thinking through the privilege motif vis a vis racial inequalities, but the larger point that he’s making about guilt and privilege would apply to any social identity, including the ones implicated in the article above from The Harvard Crimson. Jonathan writes:

In the American context, the phrase “white privilege” refers to the structural injustices affixed to ethnicity and skin color.

More specifically, white privilege can mean at least three things, two of which I accept and one of which I don’t. First, it means that I possess, by virtue of my skin color, social and material advantages. This is simply a statistical reality…

White privilege means, second of all, that I possess those advantages by virtue of systemic and historic patterns of discrimination and injustice… I accept this second plank of white privilege as well…

But there is a third, more profoundly ideological and typically unstated meaning of white privilege that I do not accept. And that is the automatic transfer of guilt to anyone who possesses such advantages… As author Eula Biss put it, whiteness is not an identity but a moral problem. Whites are moral debtors simply by being white. If a black 4-year-old is demonstrably indicted as guilty by the structures of society, says Ta-Nehsi Coates following Malcolm X, then “it is impossible for white 4-year-olds to be innocent.”…

The bottom line here is: Identity politics, at its most careless, undermines moral agency. The white 16-year-old at Northeast High is not guilty simply for being white or for the advantages he possesses by virtue of his skin color. We cannot forsake the demands of justice at an individual level. We understand from Scripture that guilt and culpability are individual; punishment and responsibility are individual. To say otherwise is its own kind of Nietzschian power move—creating a concept of guilt for the sake of leveraging power.

This excerpt doesn’t do the full argument justice, so you really have to go read the whole thing. I think Jonathan is spot-on here. There is no question that privilege exists in the first two senses of the term, but the third sense is problematic. If privilege implies guilt, then it is possible to be guilty of a sin that you didn’t commit and for which there can be no atonement. Moreover, there would be no possibility of reconciliation on an individual level as long as systemic injustices persist in the world.

Obviously, these conclusions are squarely at odds with biblical teaching about guilt, justice, and reconciliation with God and with one another. And that is why we are going to have to give careful attention to the claims being made by proponents of identity politics. Their claims are theological at their core, and they require a theological answer. Jonathan gets us started in the right direction, and I encourage you to read the rest of his piece here.

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