White Fragility is anti-Gospel

Original post from Facebook (links below):

I’ve been hesitant to speak on this and have been reading and watching stacks of material to make sure I understand it correctly before I do, but I think it needs to be said: not all efforts against racism are created equal.

Before you go assuming I’m on whatever side you think that statement puts me on, the disclaimers:
Yes, racism exists (both individual and systemic, in the original sense). Sadly, I’ve seen it first hand even in the church and have heard plenty of accounts from others as well. Yes, it’s important we fight racism. I’ve been writing on this matter long before the events of the last 2 months, so don’t take any of this as me downplaying racism. However, it’s incredibly important we choose carefully in our approach to this matter.

Specifically, I want to address the “White Fragility” theory presented by Robin DiAngelo. First, because it has become the go-to resource in our national discussion, racing up the bestseller charts and even selling out on Amazon and being handed out and suggested by many within Christendom. Second, because it is representative of much of the ideology of Critical Race Theory, the prevailing viewpoint in our national discussions. Learning DiAngelo’s work helps one see much of the ideology being shared on television and in print today.

You can read the book, or you can watch the interviews, and you can read and watch the counterpoint articles and videos being produced. There is no shortage of her material available right now. However, the best entry-level summary is DiAngelo’s interview with Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show from June 17. Asked by Fallon how white people can say they aren’t racist, DiAngelo answered, “I think white people should remove that phrase from their vocabulary, ‘I’m not racist.’ … When I’m talking about the racism that I have, that you have, it’s the result of living in a society in which racism is the foundation. We all absorb it, we all absorb it, there’s no exempting ourselves from it.”
She goes on to say that white people should stop trying to decide if they are racist… because they are. In the book, she sets up a trap to drive home the racism of all whites. Are you a racist? If you say yes, then you can admit it and live with it. If you say no, you’re both a racist and a fragile white because you can’t come to grips with your own racism. It’s the classic “have you stopped beating your wife?” trap translated into racial matters.

This is anti-Christian in every way. Either she’s saying that because it’s natural, racism isn’t a sin (which is not what she’s saying, and would be wrong), or that racism is both natural and a sin. If people are guilty of a sin solely because they are born into a certain race, then the Bible lied to us. If people are guilty of a sin solely because of the color of their skin, and cannot change it, then they cannot be forgiven. This kind of thinking also makes a mockery of biblical unity. Being “colorblind” isn’t the answer, but seeing everything as a matter of color and seeing races as different teams, all of which are inherently opposed to each other, leaves no room for the unity Jesus brings.

3 sin categories in which someone can show racism are hatred, pride, and/or partiality. You hate another person because of the color of their skin, you view someone as lesser than you because of the color of their skin, and/or you treat them differently because of the color of their skin. If you’re guilty of any of those three, repent. The Good News is that there is forgiveness and transformation for you in Jesus Christ. If you’re not doing those things, and you are loving your neighbor as God commanded, you aren’t guilty. Period.

Because these ideas are anti-Gospel, one would expect to see side effects that go in the opposite direction of the Gospel’s destination, and that’s what’s happening. We’re seeing the return of segregation, but this time voluntary. We’re seeing moral relativism that says the wrongness of an act depends on the color of the skin of the perpetrator. We’re seeing the sin of partiality being endorsed. We’re seeing the biblical concept of assuming the best about each other flipped on its head, teaching instead that we should assume the worst. (Spend any time with DiAngelo’s work and you’ll see that she trains people to constantly be looking for racial slights, whether intended or not. If you’re constantly looking for something, guess what happens?) We’re seeing the commands to be patient with one another and tolerate one another in love for the sake of unity be ignored on multiple sides. The mild, unintended insensitivities that may arise and the difficulty of hearing out a brother’s stories are not proof a person is racist. They are proof that cross-cultural issues can be difficult to navigate and will need Christlike patience and love to overcome.

The binary thinking I wrote about recently tells a person that you either accept every issue on one side, or you belong to the other side. Binary thinkers will think that because I’ve taken issue with these things, I must be the racist. Because I said that DiAngelo trains people to see racial slights that aren’t there, that racial slights don’t exist. We are smarter than that. There is room for nuance. Very few things in life are an either/or, and this one isn’t either. One can be fully against racism and still take issue with the methods and ideas of other people who are also against racism.

We must realize the way we fight it, the teammates we choose, and the ideas we espouse in opposing racism make a big difference as to the outcome of our efforts. An ideology that undermines the Gospel and totally precludes the possibility of unity and equality cannot be embraced if we want to reach those ends – as we should.

So, in the sermons we preach, the articles we write, the Facebook posts we make, and whatever else we say, it’s of incredible importance that we let the Gospel be the answer. We can say the Gospel is the answer all day long, but our actions and the ideas we hold to will determine if we truly believe it.

DiAngelo on Fallon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZfiSjTHVqA

DiAngelo on “Challenging White Fragility”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xtZ0nAFHow&

Secular writers on White Fragility:

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/on-white-fragility

The Problem with White Fragility

Ben Shapiro also did a video on the matter, but I’m not linking it because A) I haven’t watched it and B) He wouldn’t be taken seriously by many

Christian writers:

The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity

The Worldview of White Fragility – A Review of Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility

Segregation:

https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2019/3/12/editorial-defending-black-commencement/

My articles on racism:

https://jackrwilkie.com/2017/09/02/racism-is-real-and-it-isnt-what-you-think-it-is/

Race, the Police, and the Christian’s Response

Why “I’m not a racist” isn’t good enough

focuspress.org/2017/08/15/how-you-can-fight-racism/

3 myths about racism

Binary thinking:

https://jackrwilkie.com/2020/06/18/please-i-beg-you-dont-be-a-binary-thinker/

Further useful reading: 

The Woke Breaking Point

 

The church of Christ invented cancel culture

Of all the wonderful things the internet has given us, there have been a few that make me wonder if it’s all worth it. One of those negatives is what has come to be known as “cancel culture.” Cancel culture is that thing you hear of in the news where the internet mob gets a hold of some wrong action or social media post and does everything in their power to ruin that person’s life.

When they find one such person, they want blood. They work to get people fired from their jobs. They try to get the person’s friends and family to shun them. They want their target buried to the point where they can never come back. No amount of apologizing can ever save a person once they’ve been canceled.

The first instance I can remember involved a woman named Justine Sacco. She posted a couple of admittedly offensive, racist tweets while getting on a plane to Africa. By the time the plane landed, hundreds of thousands of people had banded together to get Sacco fired from her job. This all occurred in 2015, and since that time canceling has entered our vernacular and become a regular part of internet life.

Unfortunately, the church had a cancel culture long before the Twitter rage mob ever got a hold of Sacco.

For decades faithful Christians have been canceled over all kinds of things. The online mob stands ready to leap to action any time someone takes the wrong side on the Holy Spirit, heaven vs. renewed creation, whether drinking alcohol is a sin, or what holidays a person celebrates, or any other number of issues. Ironically, I’ll probably have some people canceling me over this article.

I’ve had people try to contact my congregation and demand I be fired over an article I wrote. I’ve had people pay for Facebook advertising to warn people that I’m a false teacher. My experiences pale in comparison to what others have dealt with, though. Some have been fired from ministry jobs, losing their ability to provide for their family over a slight difference of opinion. Some have had longtime friends turn on them seemingly overnight. Some have had it made clear to them that they are no longer welcome in buildings and events they use to frequent.

How can this be so when unity is one of the most emphasized attributes of the New Testament church? How is it remotely Christlike to cancel people without discussing your differences and giving them a chance to explain themselves? Where is grace when the slightest misstep is enough to instantly cut ties with each other?

Two considerations should be made:

First, when the time comes to take a firm, unwavering stand, it must still be done in love. And, despite what some claim, just because you’ve told the truth it doesn’t make you inherently loving (as 1 Corinthians 13:1 teaches us). Canceling someone is anything but loving.

Second, we have to be careful where we draw the line. Every Christian makes a distinction between non-negotiables and secondary matters. If we make everything (or 99.9% of everything) a non-negotiable, our standard is that there is no room to be wrong about anything. Matthew 7:2 must be kept in mind – our standard is the standard that will be used against us. If you’ve ever changed your mind on even the slightest thing, that “holding a single wrong belief makes one a false teacher” standard should be a chilling thought. We must always have the humility to be able to say “I could be wrong.”

Yes, there is such a thing as a false teacher, but we should use the term with extreme caution. Someone who disagrees with me is not automatically a false teacher. Someone who is wrong about something is not automatically a false teacher (see Apollos in Acts 18). The New Testament saves the term for those who teach foundational errors like works based salvation or denial of Christ’s deity. Additionally, we’re told that a false teacher will be known by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20). Their character will show that they are not obedient, Spirit-led people.

That distinction in Matthew 7 is key. Jesus starts by teaching us to be very careful in our judging. However, He then tells us how to judge. So, if you’re reading this and asking, “how do we distinguish between a brother who is sincere but wrong and someone who is actually a false teacher?” just read Matthew 7. The first section teaches us to give grace to those who are mistaken. The later section teaches us to beware of those who are clearly false teachers by their fruits. The problem with cancel culture is there is never room for the grace that gives us time to determine the difference.

So, the next time somebody writes or says something that seems wrong to you, hit the brakes before throwing out the “false teacher” term. Before you cut someone out of your life, ask if they are truly in the wrong, or if you simply have a difference of opinion. If you’re one of those people who actively tries to harm those who disagree with you in any way, repent of your pride and spirit of division. Leave the canceling to our corrupt, graceless, Godless culture.

On Christians and President Trump…

As one of the tens of millions of Americans who log in to social media every day, I’ve been seeing posts about President Trump for over 3 years. Rarely do any of these posts strike a balance down the middle. Though I suspect most Americans are somewhere in the middle, there is a large number of people occupying the two ends of the spectrum in his favor and against him.

Brothers and sisters, you have to realize the polarization and alienation that comes from vocally taking a side.

Given the extreme distance between his fans and his critics, he’s one of the most polarizing figures in American history. His most passionate supporters look upon anyone who disagrees with him as stupid or evil, and the same is true in reverse when it comes to his most passionate critics. Both sides view any who disagree with them as adversaries to be defeated rather than fellow humans to be loved despite the differences of opinion.

What troubles me is that there are plenty of Christians who know how divisive the discussion around the President is and yet persist in broadcasting their opinions of praise or hatred anyway. It is a horrific embarrassment to the church any time a Christian shares one of those posts along the lines of, “If you don’t like my opinion of the President, remove me from your friends list.”

In what universe is that attitude compatible with “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9)? How is that compliant with the command, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Romans 12:18)?

And to what end? All that comes of it is that those who agree will continue to agree, and those who disagree will be driven away, meaning we’ll never have the opportunity to love and serve them in the ways Jesus called us to do.

That’s why I’m asking you to think twice before your next post about President Trump. I’m not writing this to tell you who to vote for, vote against, agree with, disagree with, support, or oppose. I’m writing to ask you to weigh your social media posting against our Lord’s desire for us to be peacemakers. Regardless of which side you may fall on, intentionally and proudly alienating friends and family over our opinions on the President is patently unchristlike.

Be Better: A New Year’s Note to Myself

I’ve found that the best way to decide how to use a new year is to look back at the previous year and consider what I would have done differently if I could do it over. As I look back in order to look forward, it hits me just how much time I wasted over the last year, and really over almost the entirety of my adult life. I actually accomplished as much or more than I ever have in a year, but there’s still plenty of room for growth in the way I spend my time.

These memes all highlight the problem I (and many in my generation) struggle with pretty well:

 

hitting-the-snooze-button.jpg

47509188_1785450114897054_8109373939655901184_n.jpg

images-1.jpg

They’re true, and they’re relatable, and the point is kinda funny when you meme it that way. I get it, but… rather than joking about all the time I waste, shouldn’t I be embarrassed about it? Time is the most valuable commodity we have, and we throw more of it away than perhaps any people group in history. Isn’t that more sad than funny? Rather than chuckling and saying “That’s so me,” shouldn’t images like this serve as motivation?

Why not just be great? Why not strive to do as much with our potential as possible? With such little time, why am I throwing so much of it away on the internet on so many nights? Why not use that time to grow? The people we all admire and read about and watch movies about aren’t the ones who let their lives slide by. It’s not only a God-given duty we have to be good stewards of the time, abilities, and opportunities we’ve been given (see Matthew 25), but it should be a joy to realize what we can be. Why revel in mediocrity when the power to be something more is in our hands? Isn’t that cool? Isn’t it exciting?

I’ve got some weight to lose. I’ve got a massive stack of books to read, and I’m hoping to get through at least 40 of them this year. For years I’ve been needing to re-start my learning in New Testament Greek. I’ve gotta stop chewing my fingernails. I want to fix my sleep habits to I go to bed on time and wake up early to have time to spend with God and work out. I need to do a lot better job of keeping up with friends and responding to emails, tweets, and Facebook messages. I have a number of ways I want to improve my ministry and my personal walk with God.

When I write out the whole list of things I want to get done, it starts to look daunting. Yours probably does, too. But when I realize how much I time I unknowingly throw away on Facebook, Twitter, Netflix, etc., it’s pretty clear I have all the time I need to do the things I want to accomplish.

The key, of course, is making the decision (and regularly reminding myself) that I want to grow more than I want to throw away the time by sleeping in in the morning or browsing the internet all night. If I don’t regularly, actively make that decision, I’ll involuntarily slide into a pattern of aimlessly spending my 24 hour allotments again, and another year will be wasted. So, I have to decide what I want more. And as an added benefit, when I take control of my time, even the time I do set aside for Netflix, Xbox, Facebook, or whatever else is more enjoyable.

But once that decision is made, the next step is to go about finding ways to motivate ourselves. Some people post their weight loss goals on Facebook and share regular updates so they can stay accountable to their group of friends. You could download a browser extension that limits your time on certain sites. My brother and I had a challenge that whoever hit the snooze button the most mornings would have to buy the other a movie ticket when we saw each other. (To my great shame, I lost – but my morning routine has been almost completely transformed in the process.) Whatever it takes, the important thing is to find a way to remind ourselves of what we really want – to grow rather than to stagnate.

I can look back on 2018 and be proud of a number of things, and I can look back with plenty of regrets. The things I’m proud of give me building blocks, the good habits formed that I can continue using into the future. The regrets give me plenty of room for growth. Lord willing, if I’m still around on January 1, 2020, I’ll have turned 2018’s regrets into 2019’s building blocks. If I stick with those changes day by day, and keep growing year after year, the person I’ll be 30 years from now will be someone who has something to show for all the time, opportunities, and abilities God gave me. Rather than reveling in mediocrity, let’s find ways to grow and be better this year.

3 words you should never say to your preacher

Three little words that might seem harmless to you but are so damaging to your preacher:

“People are saying…”

Sentences that start this way (or similar ways, like “I’ve been hearing some talk around the congregation that…”) are often used to introduce some criticism of the preacher or a desire for a change.

  • “People are saying your sermons are too long.”
  • “Some folks have a problem with your wife and/or kids.”
  • “People are saying you don’t do enough visiting.”
  • “People are really upset with you over what you said about…”

But regardless of the specific message, the general message of “People are saying…” is always one of two things. Either: 

  1. There is criticism and complaining about the preacher going on in the church, and nobody who feels that way is willing to step up and address it with him lovingly, or
  2. The person bringing the complaint is using “people” as a cover for him/herself. Beyond that, they’re making the dishonest implication that the problem is more widespread than it actually is in an attempt to give validity to their criticism.

While I’m sure there are plenty of occurrences of #1, it’s pretty well established in preacher circles that 90% of the time when somebody says “People are saying,” it’s the latter. That kind of dishonesty, especially toward each other, has no place in the church.

Here are 4 reasons why I hope you’ll never use a “People are saying” criticism: 

First and foremost, it’s unbiblical. The Bible offers plenty of advice for dealing with interpersonal conflicts (Matthew 5, 18), disagreements, and differences of opinion (Romans 14). At no point does it say, “Talk behind somebody’s back and hope it gets back to them through a third party” or “Share a criticism that you have by blaming it on other people.” Above all, the command to “love your neighbor as yourself” simply prohibits this kind of veiled criticism. 

It’s controlling and manipulative. What can a preacher do when he receives this kind of criticism? He can’t go talk to the anonymous “people” and explain his side of the story, so he’s left with only two options: comply, or ignore it. But if he ignores it, he has no idea how many “people” are behind the complaint. He doesn’t know if it’s one malcontent or an issue big enough that it could cost him his job. So, he feels enormous pressure to comply.

Whether intentional or not, that’s the position the person who brings the criticism is putting him in, and it’s not fair. The most stressful, painful times of my ministry have been the long, sleepless nights kept up wondering how many of my brothers and sisters truly were unhappy with me as much as I had been led to believe by a “people are saying…” critic. Don’t do this to your preacher. 

It’s discouraging. It lets the preacher know that some of his fellow Christians (or at least one of them) have a problem with him, and they didn’t love him enough to talk to him about it. The core message is “You have to listen to the problems I have with you, and I don’t have to give any reasoning, listen to your side of the story, or answer any of your objections.”It’s already hard enough on preachers that we often feel like employed outsiders, and faceless criticism just exacerbates that problem. Remember your preacher is a person, too. Customers leave anonymous reviews. Brothers confront one another in love.

It facilitates gossip. What the critic is telling the preacher is, “There’s gossip going on about you, I was party to it, and I’m a pipeline for it.” If a brother or sister comes to you with a complaint about another brother or sister, it’s your job to shut it down and let the grumbler know that they can either go talk to the person they’re criticizing or keep it to themselves. Listening to them and passing on their complaints anonymously simply legitimizes their gossip and helps it keep spreading. 

If you feel the criticism is legitimate, offer to go with them and share the concerns. If they won’t talk to the preacher but want to keep undermining him by talking about him behind his back, their sin needs to be confronted and exposed. It should be unthinkable to us that a church be torn asunder by gossip circles and back door politicking. The New Testament makes it abundantly clear that the unity of the church is critically important to our Lord, and it should be just as important to us. 

That’s really what this comes down to, and why it’s so important. The unity of the church and the minister’s ability to be effective are at stake. I don’t think anyone wants to sacrifice either of those things to get their point across.

Naturally, the preacher isn’t above criticism and needs gentle correction from time to time just as anyone else. But how that is accomplished makes a huge difference. When the time comes to offer constructive criticism, please remember to offer it with love. Keep in mind how much of a tough spot it puts the preacher in to hear “people are saying” rather than hearing it directly. And, above all, don’t let gossip have its way in the church.