If you want to understand the sexual revolution in a nutshell, read Nathaniel Frank’s Washington Post column from a few days ago. He argues that the gay rights movement has been at the forefront of decoupling sex from procreation and of establishing sexual liberation as a driving norm. Frank writes: Continue Reading →
Neil Shenvi is a scientist with a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from Berkley, but in recent years he has become a budding Christian apologist. He is a member of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina (where JD Greear is pastor) and has been putting out some really insightful, accessible material critiquing critical theory and social justice.
At a conference earlier this year, he delivered a message titled “Critical Theory, Social Justice, and Christianity: Are They Compatible?” Shenvi shows that critical theory (along with its larger social justice project) is an alternative worldview that is incompatible with Christianity. It is really well done, thorough, and devastating to the claims of critical theory. Continue Reading →
Neil Shenvi has a helpful article explaining the meaning of the term “whiteness” within critical race theory and how it differs from common usage. That difference causes big time problems. From Shenvi’s conclusion:
Exploring the historical conception of ‘whiteness’ and its connection to racism is a worthwhile subject. At one point, it did indeed connote or at least suggest “membership in the superior racial caste.” However, few if any Americans today would endorse that understanding. Consequently, the antiracist is taking a morally neutral term and using it to express a deeply evil concept. That’s a recipe for disaster.
Of course, in principle, we are free to define terms however we want as long as we’re consistent. But the goal of language is effective communication. If I insist on defining “moron” to mean “French hockey player,” I shouldn’t be surprised if a roomful of French hockey players is offended by my definition! We should choose words that convey our meaning as clearly as possible and -as Christians- as charitably as possible.
To minimize the possibility of misunderstanding, a simple solution is available: substitute the phrases “white racial superiority” or “membership in the highest racial caste” for the term ‘whiteness.’ Since these phrases already carry extremely negative connotations (with good reason!), the antiracist runs no risk in confusing their hearers.
This is a helpful article. Read the rest here.
Last year, I read Richard Delgado’s and Jean Stefanic’s Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, and I noticed some of the same problems of usage. “Whiteness” is used to refer to a hegemonic social construct, but it is also used right alongside the term “white” as a racial category. Sometimes it is unclear whether Delgado and Stefanic are criticizing whiteness or people with white skin. For example:
Many critical race theorists and social scientists hold that racism is pervasive, systemic, and deeply ingrained. If we take this perspective, then no white member of society seems quite so innocent. The interplay of meanings that one attaches to race; the stereotypes one holds of other people; the standards of looks, appearance, and beauty; and the need to guard one’s own position all powerfully determine one’s perspective. Indeed, one aspect of whiteness, according to some scholars, is its ability to seem perspectiveless or transparent (p. 91, underline mine).
Delgado and Stefanic obviously employ “white” to refer to skin color in the first instance. While the later use of “whiteness” would seem to be referring to a hegemonic social construct, it is unclear if that is all that it means. Is “whiteness” only referring to a social construct in the second instance? Delgado and Stefanic have just said that “no white member of society seems quite so innocent.” That seems to suggest that all people with white skin to some degree share in the culpability of whiteness as a social construct. If that is the case, doesn’t whiteness implicate all people with white skin?
In any case, this terminology can be very confusing at best and positively divisive at worst. I think Shenvi’s suggestions for speaking more clearly would do a great deal in providing clarity to our conversations about these sensitive issues.
Maryann White is the mother of a Notre Dame student, and last week she penned an Op-Ed for the Notre Dame campus newspaper titled “The Legging Problem.” The basic thrust of White’s article is a complaint against immodesty among women. In particular, she has a problem with the legging trend. She writes:
I’m not trying to insult anyone or infringe upon anyone’s rights. I’m just a Catholic mother of four sons with a problem that only girls can solve: leggings.
The emergence of leggings as pants some years ago baffled me. They’re such an unforgiving garment. Last fall, they obtruded painfully on my landscape. I was at Mass at the Basilica with my family. In front of us was a group of young women, all wearing very snug-fitting leggings and all wearing short-waisted tops (so that the lower body was uncovered except for the leggings). Some of them truly looked as though the leggings had been painted on them…
I was ashamed for the young women at Mass. I thought of all the other men around and behind us who couldn’t help but see their behinds. My sons know better than to ogle a woman’s body — certainly when I’m around (and hopefully, also when I’m not). They didn’t stare, and they didn’t comment afterwards. But you couldn’t help but see those blackly naked rear ends. I didn’t want to see them — but they were unavoidable. How much more difficult for young guys to ignore them.
As you can imagine, the students at Notre Dame did not appreciate this Op-Ed. Some students protested the Op-Ed by organizing a “Love Your Leggings Day” for the campus last Tuesday. The Washington Post reports:
A student group, Irish 4 Reproductive Health, similarly declared Tuesday to be “Leggings Pride Day.” On Facebook, the group explained that White’s letter, although well-intentioned, “perpetuates a narrative central to rape culture” by implying that women’s clothing choices are to blame for men’s inappropriate behavior.
Wow. Rape culture? This mother’s simple plea for modesty is supposed to be viewed as advancing rape culture? To be sure, there are lecherous men in the world who are more than willing to blame their evil behavior on how women dress. We can recognize that any such insinuation is a moral dodge and must be repudiated. The sinner has himself to blame for evil choices that he makes, and he cannot rightly blame anyone else for what is his own fault.
Having said that, it is really problematic and sloppy to equate modesty with rape culture. Albert Mohler discussed this on The Briefing this morning and said this:
Illegitimate is the argument that concern for modesty is simply part of that shame culture, that talk of modesty is just a way of shaming females. That is not a legitimate argument. The Bible makes clear it’s not a legitimate argument. The Bible makes clear why we wear coverings for those private parts in the first place. Then the question is, “As we extend from that to appropriate clothing, what would that look like?”…
Wearing clothing that directs attention to those private parts rather than away from those private parts is inherently problematic. It is by biblical definition, whether male or female, immodest. One final thought about this for Christians, one of our responsibilities to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ is to encourage one another to holiness. Everything we do, including our choice of clothing, but including everything else should at the very least be judged by that standard.
I couldn’t agree more. Modesty is not “rape culture.” The way in which we choose to adorn ourselves is morally implicated. In fact, modesty is a part of biblical virtue (1 Tim. 2:9). Kevin DeYoung elaborates:
Modesty operates with the Bible’s negative assessment of public nudity post-Fall. From Adam and Eve scrambling for fig leaves (Gen. 3:10), to the dishonorable nakedness of Noah (Gen. 9:21), to the embarrassingly exposed buttocks of David’s men (2 Sam. 10:4), the Bible knows we inhabit a fallen world in which certain aspects of our bodily selves are meant to be hidden. Indeed, this is precisely what Paul presumes when he speaks of “our unpresentable parts” which must be “treated with greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). There’s a reason momma called them private parts…
Modesty demonstrates to others that we have more important things to offer than good looks and sex appeal. The point of 1 Timothy 2:9 and 1 Peter 3:3-4 is not an absolute prohibition against trying to look nice. The prohibition is against trying so very hard to look good in all the ways that are so relatively unimportant. The question asked of women in these verses–and it certainly applies to men as well–is this: will you grab people’s attention with hair and jewelry and sexy clothes or will your presence in the room be unmistakable because of your Christlike character? Immodest dress tells the world, “I’m not sure I have anything more to offer than this. What you see is really all you get”…
If the Bible is to be believed, this whole business of modesty is not irrelevant to Christian discipleship. Our bodies have been bought with a price. Therefore glorify God with your body (1 Cor. 6:20). Which means we don’t show everyone everything we might think is worth seeing. And it means we won’t be embarrassed to keep most private those things that are most precious. Shame is a powerful category, in the Bible and in our own day. The key is knowing what things we should actually be ashamed of.
(You can listen to the rest of Albert Mohler’s commentary below or download the audio here.)
I woke up this morning to a troubling Op-Ed in The Washington Post by Cynthia Nixon. The entire article is a call for an end to civility toward anyone who holds Christian convictions about sexuality. In particular, the essay responds to the fact that former Vice-President Joe Biden recently referred to current Vice-President Mike Pence as a “decent man.” Nixon unloads on Biden for this flash of tolerance and civility, arguing that Mike Pence’s Christian convictions about sexuality are worthy of the severest public outrage and opprobrium. She writes,
I think it’s important to explain why calling Pence “a decent guy” is an affront to the real meaning of the word….
These are not the actions of a decent man. The fact that Pence does vile, hateful things while well-coiffed and calm doesn’t make him decent; it makes him insidious and dangerous. Respecting each other’s rights and humanity is what makes us civilized — not keeping a civil tone while doing the opposite.
It’s easy to say nice things about Pence when you’re not personally threatened by his agenda. If Biden were being directly attacked in the same way that our community is, I think he would see Pence from a very different vantage point…
And then she ends with this chilling conclusion:
When you’re fighting for the rights of marginalized communities who are under attack, it’s okay to stop being polite. This is not a time for hollow civility. This is a time to fight. If Democrats are too wedded to the collegiality of the Senate dining room to call out the Republicans who espouse homophobia, how are we ever going to stop them?
It is hard to imagine that The Washington Post would allow this kind of open animus against adherents of any other point of view. Can you imagine an Op-Ed arguing that it’s time to toss civility aside and embrace open animus towards anyone who supports, say, the Green New Deal? And yet, here it appears as a matter of course that it is open season on Christians who dare to affirm what the Bible teaches about sexual ethics.
This is the new reality for Christians who hold the line on biblical sexual ethics, and I don’t see any signs of things letting up. On the contrary, this kind of open animus only seems to be spreading. In light of this, it is good for Christians to remember a few things:
1. The Lord Jesus has prepared us for this.
In Matthew 10, Jesus prepares his disciples for opposition to their mission. The entire chapter is bracing, not least because Jesus is so forthright about what his disciples should expect: “And you will be hated by all on account of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matt. 10:22). Jesus told us that we would face open animus, and we would do well to prepare ourselves for the kind of lives Jesus told us that his disciples would have. This is what we signed up for. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; therefore be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16).
2. We must not respond in kind.
Those who oppose the Christian message will increasingly call for an end of civility toward Christian conviction. The rallying will become more brazen. As it does, we must commit ourselves not to respond in kind.
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?” (Matt. 5:44-46)
We need to be ready to love our neighbors and our enemies and to bear witness in a culture that is increasingly hostile toward us. Christians may someday face fines and other penalties for their convictions on marriage. Our churches may eventually lose tax exempt status. Any number of negative outcomes are possible in the approaching conflagration. Ours will likely be a costly love and a costly witness. But this is precisely the kind of discipleship that Jesus has called all of us to, and we must never return evil for evil (Rom. 12:17).
3. It will be worth it.
Every one of us will be tempted to fudge the message in order to avoid conflict. Don’t do it. Being faithful to Jesus and his word will be worth it no matter what it costs us to do so. We have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood (Heb. 12:4), and I don’t see that coming any time soon. But even if it were to come to that, it would be worth even losing our lives for the sake of Christ and his word. No matter what we suffer or what we give up for Christ, it will be restored to us and then some in the age to come. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it” (Matt. 16:25).
The opposition is increasing. Jesus has prepared us. Let’s be ready.
Two items have appeared in the news this week out of Virginia that ought to shock every decent person who sees them. Both of them involve elected officials in Virginia arguing for infanticide. And, no, I’m not being hyperbolic. I want you to see this for yourself to establish exactly what happened.
First, Virginia State Delegate Kathy Tran has proposed a bill that would guarantee a right to abortion even when the mother is in the process of giving birth in the 40th week. Republican legislator Todd Gilbert pressed the point in a hearing with Tran. You can watch the exchange above or read below:
Gilbert: So how late in the third trimester could a physician perform an abortion if he indicated it would impair the mental health of the woman?
Tran: Or physical health.
Gilbert: Okay. I’m talking about mental health.
Tran: I mean, through the third trimester. The third trimester goes all the way up to 40 weeks.
Gilbert: So to the end of the third trimester?
Tran: Yes. I don’t think we have a limit in the bill.
Gilbert: So where it’s obvious that a woman is about to give birth, she has physical signs that she’s about give birth, would that still be a point at which she could still request an abortion if she was so certified? [pause] She’s dilating?
Tran: Mr. Chairman, you know, that would be a decision that the doctor, the physician, and the woman would make.
Gilbert: I understand that. I’m asking if your bill allows that.
Tran: My bill would allow that, yes.
Yes, you read that correctly. Tran argues that it ought to be legal to kill a child at the 40th week as the child is coming through the birth canal. If it is surprising to you that such a thing is legal (even if rarely done), be surprised no more. This is exactly what Roe v. Wade and its companion decision Doe v. Bolton have established. Roe makes this kind of barbarism into a “constitutional right” through every stage of pregnancy—right up until the point of birth.
Second, if Tran’s testimony didn’t send chills up your spine, then this certainly will. The Democratic Governor of Virginia Ralph Northam went on a radio program this morning to defend Tran’s 40-week abortion bill. The host asked Governor Northam about Tran’s remarks the previous day. He was asked specifically about whether the bill allows a woman to have an abortion after she has gone into labor at the 40th week of pregnancy. This is what the Governor said:
If a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired, and then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother. [emphasis mine]
You can watch Gov. Northam’s statement below:
Now just think about what this means. Governor Northam is going even further than Tran. He is saying that a fully delivered baby could be left to die on the operating table if that is what the mother and the physician want. A fully delivered baby!
How did we get to the point that we are considering whether or not to throw away the life a fully delivered baby? How did we get to the point that a fully delivered baby’s life may not be protected in law? I thought every person had an inviolable right to life under our Constitution? Well, apparently not according to Governor Northam.
If you have been paying attention to the abortion debate in America at all, none of this will be surprising to you. The pro-choice position excludes the unborn from the human community. It gives no consideration at all to the human life that is growing inside a mother’s womb. It says that a woman’s so-called “right to choose” trumps the right of another person not to be killed. That is the pro-choice position. It is no surprise that we now have a governor who is saying that a fully delivered baby’s life is disposable and subject to a woman’s “right to choose” as well.
The United States of America has the most liberal abortion laws on the planet, and that is due to Roe v. Wade. That infamous decision makes it legal to kill unborn people at any point during pregnancy up to and including the point of birth. Because of that, Roe v. Wade has presided over the killing of 60 million unborn human beings since 1973. That is the holocaust times ten. And now there is a Democratically elected governor who would expand this barbarism to include those children who survive birth. How seared is our nation’s conscience that she tolerates this cruelty?
The state of New York has recently passed a similar bill, and the state legislature cheered after its passage. It was an abominable display. I hope and pray that the same ugliness won’t make its way to the state of Virginia. If you live in Virginia, you need to call your representatives and oppose this with all your might. You need to flood their phone lines until this bill is stopped.
I am reminded that the pro-life cause has a long way to go. So many people in our nation have hardened their heart to the humanity and dignity of the weakest among us. Today is proof of that.
UPDATE: Senator Ben Sasse is virulent in his response to Governor Northern, and I sympathize with his consternation. He writes,
This is morally repugnant. In just a few years pro-abortion zealots went from ‘safe, legal, and rare’ to ‘keep the newborns comfortable while the doctor debates infanticide.’ I don’t care what party you’re from — if you can’t say that it’s wrong to leave babies to die after birth, get the hell out of public office.
I don’t have a great deal to add to the voluminous online commentary about confrontation between some Catholic School boys and protestors at the March for Life. At this point, it is clear that the initial viral narrative condemning the boys was an embarrassing whiff on the part of the media (see here and here). It appears that many people were willing to believe the worst possible interpretation of a brief video clip simply because some of the boys were wearing MAGA hats. I wonder if the video would have gotten any attention at all had the boys not been wearing those hats.
In any case, I was just thinking that it is probably a good time for all of us who use social media to remember how toxic and destructive a rush to judgment can be. People can be targeted and doxed with swift effect. Lives and livelihood’s can be overturned in a moment by an unthinking social media mob. For that reason, all of us should be careful that we not get carried away by the passion of a mob and forget basic biblical justice:
“The first to plead his case seems just, Until another comes and examines him.” –Prov. 18:17
This text is telling us that we need to reserve judgment on a matter until all sides have been heard. We need this instruction because we are sometimes tempted to believe initial reports on an event—especially if they are compelling. We also are prone to believe things that confirm our biases. And let’s face it. This was a charged political event, and almost every viewer is going to have a political bias that impacts his evaluation of evidence. That was certainly the case here. Sometimes the temptation to virtue-signal can overcome us before we even realize what we’ve done, and that failure is only exacerbated when a declaration is made before all the facts are in.
I do not mean to foreclose the possibility of spirited commentary about controversial ideas or events. All I’m saying is that Biblical wisdom would simply have us slow down. Remember your own biases. Remember that there is another side to the story. Sometimes the truth is more complicated than our biases would let us admit. And sometimes the best course of action is simply not weigh-in when so many variables are unknown. Sometimes the best course of action is not to weigh-in even when the variables are known.
Again, we would all do well to learn from this. I hope we do.
“We should ask why so many blue-check believers, not to mention their hundreds of thousands of followers, were so eager to join an outrage mob against a child based on so little information.” @megbasham https://t.co/CHI6PNWxU1
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) January 21, 2019
The Huffington Post apparently thinks it’s newsworthy that Karen Pence—wife of Vice President Mike Pence—has taken a teaching job at a Christian school. What’s so extraordinary about this? According to the report:
It’s not a school where everyone is welcome. In a “parent agreement” posted online, the school says it will refuse admission to students who participate in or condone homosexual activity. The 2018 employment application also makes candidates sign a pledge not to engage in homosexual activity or violate the “unique roles of male and female.”
“Moral misconduct which violates the bona fide occupational qualifications for employees includes, but is not limited to, such behaviors as the following: heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites,” says the application.
The application says that the school believes “marriage unites one man and one woman” and that “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.” The application asks potential employees to explain their view of the “creation/evolution debate.”
These paragraphs seem designed to scandalize readers with the backwardness of the school and therefore of Ms. Pence herself. It seems lost on the writer that these kinds of moral standards in Christian schools are common. There are countless other schools just like this one all over the country, including the one where I teach. Admission and employment policies for Christian schools vary depending on the mission of the institution, but it is anything but uncommon for Christian schools to expect their employees and students to behave like Christians. Such schools are anything but newsworthy.
The real story here is that The Huffington Post thinks this is newsworthy. But it’s not just The Huffington Post. Now the story is being picked up by outlets across the country, including The Washington Post, which features this headline: “The school that hired Karen Pence requires applicants to disavow gay marriage, trans identity.” These reports represent a point of view that is scandalized by mere Christianity and that can only view bona fide Christian piety as fanatical and anti-social. It is a sign of the times that news writers could be so cut off from the way that millions of American believe and conduct their lives. But alas, here we are.
If you want to know why so many traditional believers look with skepticism at mainstream news media, look no further than the reporting on Karen Pence’s new teaching job.
UPDATE 1: Other news outlets are now picking up this story, and the headlines are accumulating. The vast majority reflect the cynical spin of the original Huffington Post piece. For example:
NBC News: “Karen Pence to teach at school that bans LGBTQ employees, students”
Politico: “Karen Pence to teach at school that bans gay students, parents, employees”
Newsweek: “Karen Pence Has Just Taken a Job at a School That Bans LGBT Pupils”
CNN: “Karen Pence teaching art at school that bans gay students, parents”
UPDATE 2: Vice-President Mike Pence responds to critics of his wife. Watch below.
PREVIEW — @VP @mike_pence responds to critics of @SecondLady‘s new job. “The criticism of Christian education in America should stop.” Tune in tonight for part one of my full interview with the Vice President on @EWTNNewsNightly at 7 PM EST on @EWTN. pic.twitter.com/YKEHyroswC
— Lauren Ashburn (@LaurenAshburn) January 17, 2019
I just finished a long and interesting Buzzfeed piece about Ellen Degeneres. There is much that I could comment on, but there is only one item I will highlight here. The author of the article writes this:
Yes, we all have a shared humanity. But there is so much more that we don’t share—race, education level, class, marital status, ability, gender identity, the list goes on—and those are the things that directly contribute to our ability to succeed and survive in this world.
I don’t know how else to read this except as a statement that what divides us is more significant than our shared humanity. Perhaps others read right over this without a second thought, but to me it stuck out as an example of the worst kind of identity-divisiveness that plagues our culture. Are we really going to quietly acquiesce to the notion that our social divisions are more fundamental than our humanity? And yet it is presented in this article as an afterthought so self-evident that it needs no justification or defense.
The Buzzfeed article does not mention “intersectionality” at any point, but I would argue that its influence is nevertheless there. I have written elsewhere that intersectionality is an intellectual framework that does more harm than good. As a theory, intersectionality fosters a truncated view of human identity and tends to exacerbate social divisions rather than healing them. And yet, it seems to be the assumed framework of so many influencers in our society. It creates a social dynamic that incentivizes grievance based on identity. In that way, it entrenches social divisions.
No one is immune from these divisions, even the publicly affable Ellen Degeneres. The hostilities simply find new targets—even targets that were formerly lauded as heroes to the progressive cause. I do not mean to defend Ellen, Kevin Hart, or anyone else in making this observation. I’m simply observing that the prevalent identity-based way of analyzing the human condition is going nowhere to heal the human condition. We are going to need something more than what is on offer by the politics of identity.
The church is supposed to be a counterculture of people from a wide array of social groups—groups that have found reconciliation and unity not on offer by the theorists of social division. This gospel unity bears witness to a world afflicted by constant and unrelenting division. The intersectional spirit of the age seems to incentivize such hostilities, but only the gospel can overcome them (Gal. 3:28). And that is the message that the world desperately needs to hear and to heed.
In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge has a startling conversation with the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Jacob is damned in death for his misdeeds in life, and he appears to warn Scrooge that he is headed for the same fate. Scrooge resists the suggestion that Jacob’s life was damnable. Scrooge understands that if Jacob’s life is damnable, then so is his own. So this exchange ensues:
“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.
“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”
Well done, Mr. Dickens. Well done. Lord, help us to understand what is the comprehensive ocean of our business.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?