This blog post was inspired in large part by this conversation between Dave Rubin and Nathan Finochino. This is the best explanation, that I have seen so far, of the problems that churches across Western Culture are currently facing. We have seen the results of it playing out on social media pages for the past 4 months. People who attend the same church, and have been friends for years, find themselves on opposite sides of numerous political arguments. Topics range from how to best deal with the Coronavirus as a church to ‘Is there racism in the church?’ and is it (racism) systemic to Western Society. Some of the views expressed by Christians in my generation (Millennials) have flummoxed those from previous generations. Many pastors and leaders are at a loss, or are confused, as to how to address what they are seeing take place. The goal of this post is not necessarily to give opinions on hot button issues but rather to address the ideas that may be at the root of these issues.
Before we dive into what I believe is at the root of the cultural upheaval we are experiencing, even to some extent in the church, I want to start by saying some truths that are not controversial in the Christian church but must be said so that I am not misunderstood. I believe that racism is evil. I also believe that the universal, or common, idea that black lives matter is obviously true. This post is not written to belittle any experiences that you or others have had and is meant simply to try and explain what is occurring underneath the surface of current social movements in the West.
Have you ever heard of critical theory? How about social justice? I’m assuming most of you are shaking your head yes. Ok, do any of you know what critical social justice is? I would imagine the vast majority of you have not heard of critical social justice but would it surprise you to know that it seems to be the driving force of what has been transpiring in our societies over the past few months. So, what is critical social justice?
As defined by Robin DiAngelo, the author of The New York Times Best Seller White Fragility (I’m sure you’ve seen it on Amazon recently), and Oxley Sensoy, in their book Is Everyone Really Equal?, critical social justice is:
A specific scholarly approach that explores the historical, cultural and ideological lines of authority that underlie social conditions.
They go on to say that this is rooted in a critical, theoretical approach to social issues and though it applies to a broad range of fields, there are some important shared principles. They are as follows: all people are individuals, they are also members of social groups and these social groups are valued unequally in western society. The authors claim that social groups who are valued more highly have greater access to the resources in society. As a statement of fact they proclaim that social injustice is real, exists today and it results in unequal access to resources between groups of people. Now listen to this:
Those who claim to be for social justice must be engaged in self-reflection about their own socialization into these groups, their positionality and must strategically act from that awareness in ways that challenge social injustice. This action requires a commitment to an ongoing and lifelong process.
The charge is that you must take their assumptions of how the world works and then adjust your life accordingly. You must change and you must act to challenge these injustices in society. But not only that, this commitment to reflect and act is a life long process. In other words, you never reach a point where you have ‘arrived’.
This is not the type of social justice movement that you may have known in the past. Those who practice critical social justice declare that Western Society is unequal in very significant ways across social groups which include race, class, gender, sexuality and ability. This inequality is structural and must be changed. For them it is revolution or bust.
Their goal is to deconstruct Western Society until we get to the point that they are the ones determining what is right or wrong. How do they plan to do this? They use cynical criticism to attack anything that they deem offensive or unjust. They don’t even have to have a proper understanding of what they are complaining about or offer a solution. The point is to complain loud enough and long enough until change takes place. Their SJWs use platforms like Facebook, Instagram and especially Twitter to amplify their grievances.
That is why in response to the terrible murder of George Floyd we have seen protests against Aunt Jemima, Trader Joe’s, the US Founding Fathers, the movie Gone With the Wind, ‘White’ Jesus, Civil War statues, the Washington Redskins and much more. The original intent of the worldwide protests seemed to be highlighting police brutality and a desire to see police departments receive some defunding. Why has it devolved into all of this?
Because the fundamental transformation of Western Society is the true goal of critical social justice. Everything is up for criticism and debate. Unfortunately for the Christian church, the society they desire to change was founded on a Judeo-Christian ethic. This is why I have gone through the trouble of writing this blog post.
We believe in morality as defined by God’s Word and in the reality of external truth and reason. This puts us at odds with a movement that is redefining traditional norms and is in fact calling those ideas unjust or evil. Our belief in truth also puts us on the opposing side of those who do not believe in external truth but rather teach people that truth is personal (your truth). The Christian concept of forgiveness also seems to be lost on a crowd that preaches that being white, masculine, heterosexual or cisnormative automatically puts you in the oppressor class and there is nothing you can really do about it. Yes, you can become an ally or advocate but you must continually examine yourself and your assumptions based on your privileges.
Does this sound biblical? Does this sound like a movement the church should be involved in?
We are called to love and to show compassion. We are called to mourn with those who mourn. We are called to feed the hungry, look after the stranger, help the poor, visit the sick and those in prison (Matthew 25:34-40). This is what we must do as Christians but this desire to love our neighbours as ourselves should not blind us to an ideology that is very subversive. We must always remember that in Christ we are not separated by race, class or gender but we are all one (Galatians 3:26-29).
I fear that if we, the church, continue to remain silent in the face of this revolution in Western Society we will ultimately regret it. Because it will not stop at the doors of the church and as regrettable as it is for me to say, it has already made it’s way into too many of them. We are called to preach the Gospel, not a social gospel.