Evangelical virtue signaling on racism

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Derryck Green, an African-American writer currently pursuing his doctorate in theology and ministry, has written several recent columns at JuicyEcumenism critical of the way certain evangelical groups are falling all over themselves to embrace #BlackLivesMatter. Back in December, Green wrote that Intervarsity had been "seduced by compartmentalized justice" when it invited #BlackLivesMatter member Michelle Higgins to be a plenary speaker at Urbana 15, Intervarsity's triennial missions conference.

Christian leaders have a tremendous responsibility to be voices and examples of reason. Christian credibility is at stake. So it's a cause for concern when Christians engage in negligent and questionable behavior. Here it involves using racial guilt to manipulate Christians into supporting a movement that perpetuates a secular social and political narrative that consists of lies and racial paranoia under the guise of fighting racial inequality....

Further, if the goal is to reduce the racial disparities in education, people should not only advocate that poor children receive better quality education, they should also encourage the redemption and reconciliation of the black family. Not only would that contribute to the mitigation of academic disparities suffered by blacks, increasing the number of intact black families would also mitigate the racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Blacks aren't locked up disproportionately simply and only because they're black. Blacks are imprisoned disproportionately because of the disintegration of the family and the collapse of the Christian moral value system.

Speaking of criminals, here's another fact: #BlackLivesMatter valorizes black criminality and sanctifies black criminals. The lives of everyday blacks don't matter to this movement, including the lives of blacks tormented by black criminals. This is why #BlackLivesMatter is a misnomer. The only black lives that matter to these social agitators are the ones killed by (white) cops, largely the result of the actions of the criminals themselves. Defending and honoring the lives of black criminals over the lives of blacks that aren't criminals, but in need of our attention, is despicable and unworthy of being called or legitimized by Christianity.

Green's most recent column looks at an article Mark Charles, a Native American activist, who wrote about his decision not to participate in communion at Urbana 15 and not to participate in a plenary session of prayer for persecuted Christians around the world. Green doesn't use the phrase "virtue signaling" but it fits the phenomenon that Green describes.

Moreover, supporting Black Lives Matter is lazy activism. Actually, it's not activism at all. It's a public display -- theater really -- to show the viewing public that you hold the socially acceptable view on this social/political trend to avoid being morally implicated or socially associated with the "problem" this organization claims to address.

To the point, I'm convinced that people don't really want to address racial discrimination and inequality -- where it actually exists. The waters are intentionally muddied so people can't see or think clearly about the issue -- in this case, directly addressing the "root causes" of racial disparities to lay blame on that which is responsible -- even if and when it means to do so implicates the suffering. Instead, this has become a cause without end -- for if it ends, people would no longer have the prospect of feeling good about themselves by marginalizing racism through public displays of fruitless, self-aggrandizing, abstract forms of "activism" that are nothing more than a therapeutic salve for our collective racial insecurities.

For whites -- Christian and non-Christian alike -- forthrightly addressing racial discrimination and inequality or the sake of the affected would mean no longer engaging in obligatory acts of charity that disempower minorities simply to absolve feelings of racial guilt. It would also mean rejecting the premise that the mere existence of racial disparities are themselves evidence of racism. In other words it means refusing the predetermined parameters of the current "conversation on race," which include being forced to acknowledge and admit white privilege and accepting blame for all that befalls racial minorities- and doing so knowing that baseless charges of racism will ensue. It will be difficult, but as Christians, in some respect, it's picking up your cross in pursuit and obedience of the one who died on it.

For blacks, again, Christian and non-Christian alike, candidly addressing racial discrimination and racial inequality means no longer willingly relishing racial victimization and helplessness, while using it as a form of power/social leverage to extract more white guilt in the form of continued and forced moral genuflections, and social reparation. Instead it means acknowledging responsibility and embracing the obligation to engage the same kind of self-determination our antecedents relied on for dignity and success in far more difficult circumstances than we face, in a country that was significantly more racist than it is today. This will be difficult as well -- very difficult actually -- because to choose self-determination over victimization and white guilt is considered racial betrayal, violating the unwritten rules of black racial solidarity that leads to racial excommunication. But, this too, is bearing one's cross in pursuit and obedience of the one who died on it.

Regarding that last point: After the 1921 Race Riot, the African-American residents of Tulsa's Greenwood District built it back better than it had been before, with much of the reconstruction complete within a year. Newspapers and other documents of the period (such as the 1921 Booker T. Washington High School yearbook) reveal the high standards the community had set for itself, in the face of tremendous government and private racial discrimination.

One more note: I was disheartened last year to see that an old friend of mine who works for a campus parachurch ministry was promoting Mark Charles and his revisionist view of Native American history. Campus ministries and many evangelical churches seem to believe that they must embrace the professional racism industry in order to earn a hearing among millennials.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on March 7, 2016 12:27 PM.

Oklahoma presidential primary 2016: Aftermath was the previous entry in this blog.

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