Rss

  • youtube

Archives for : james white

All Posts Matter: Expanded Thoughts Over 2.5 Years…

Originally posted October 12, 2017 on Twitter (back when we were only allowed 180 characters), my good friend Mike cut and pasted all 58 tweets  from that day into one document.  This is not just a ‘re-post’ – there’s a ton of new material added and it’s literally taken me two years to work through and write it out.

Back in early October of 2017 (almost two years ago), Lecrae dropped a brick cinderblock on the heads of quite a few folks with several interviews where he stated he was divorcing ‘white evangelicalism‘.  The October 12 article on the topic at Christianity Today gives a bit clearer insight into the issue. John Piper has a helpful (somewhat) reflection what Lecrae’s statement means as a whole to the evangelical movement in the US.  The original statement from Lecrae brought out a ton of angry denunciations in the comments sections from everyday folks (sadly, as expected). I’ve grown accustomed to seeing this level of anger whenever any black person who isn’t a Thomas Sowell follower brings up racism in culture, society and the church.

Some ‘white evangelicals’ are upset with Lecrae because the only ‘Christianity’ they’ve known is ‘white evangelicalism’ (we’ll give it a better name in a few). What Lecrae (and others) have been calling out is the fact that Christian expression in America has been shaped MORE by culture and cultural convenience than by scripture.

Some treat this as an ‘attack’ because they don’t recognize the influences of culture (good and bad) on their framework. By assuming your own cultural framework as the ‘default orthodoxy’, you may unintentionally present it as biblical truth when it is no more than cultural opinion.  The example that immediately came to mind as I typed this was the practice in the late 1800’s of having Native Americans take a ‘Christian name’ in the process of assimilation into the larger American culture (a practice which has resulted in interesting stories about multiple names in many Native families). Many members of Holiness churches in the United States have a ‘default orthodoxy’ that playing cards or women wearing pants go against scripture when scripture itself is silent on the issue (some older members are still offended when younger women come to church in pant suits). In the church we can sometimes see it expressed in music genre and style differences.

Not all cultural frameworks are bad. The Westminster Confession of Faith is a great document and faithfully represents the teachings of scripture. It was produced in a cultural framework borne out of the protestant reformation. As such, it had an understanding of the role of government different from past nation-states before it. American Presbyterians in 1747 saw the need to make adjustments to it (rightly) to reflect and comment on the society they were currently living in (which was moving away from being a monarchy). On the other hand, Jim Crow-era America wasn’t a good cultural framework; it assumed ‘whiteness’ to be orthodoxy and gave us false teachings like the ‘curse of Ham’ and warnings about the ‘errors of miscegenation’. These things shaped American culture (as a whole) and church culture (especially in conservative churches, regardless of denomination).

Secular Religious Conservativism (aka Cultural American Patriotic Churchianity) is a poor lens to view the world and one’s neighbors. At best, it comes across as uncaring, unloving, dismissive and unChristian. At worst, it comes off as racist, ethnically and culturally (and sometimes ethnically) idolatrous.

Secular Religious Conservativism is an interesting monster – Lecrae calls it ‘white evangelicalism’. It’s the default position that assumes that American cultural expressions, habits and norms are equivalent with Biblical mandates. It’s the position that assumes that 18th and 19th century hymns are God-glorifying, but theologically-sound gospel music is out of order for a church service, usually attacked via “the style of music is not appropriate” without giving an example beyond personal and cultural preference as to why. You can see multiple examples of it in Scot Aniol’s exchange with Shai Linne regarding Christian Hip Hop (a very respectful exchange by the way, so absolutely worth the read).

It’s no secret that American missionaries have, in the past, had the problem of bringing their assumptions about what ‘civilization’ should look like with them alongside of the gospel. Part of that culture and heritage may be bound up in things like a glorified (and largely fabricated) view of the South and the Confederacy (for example, check the Facebook comments on a post from Russell Moore on the topic of the Confederate Flag).

Liberals figured out this problem (sometimes called contextualization) a while ago, adjusted their speech and approach adequately in order to ‘speak the language’ of the people they wanted on their side.  As they listened, some genuinely (for non-political reasons) grew in empathy and compassion.  At the same time, liberal theology lined up (rightly) with the Civil Rights movement. Russell Moore’s historical analysis of how liberals won the day and the soul of the black community during the Jim Crow era into the Civil Rights Movement is documented in part here (check his references for more works on the topic). It is a good history lesson for both what came before and why we are where we are now (hint: it’s not ‘racial marxism’ or some other intellectually lazy excuse).

You cannot claim conservative theology and still treat your brothers and sisters with contempt. You will not believed (“if you really believed I was made in the image of God just like you, then why do you treat me as a sub-human ?”), people will call your hypocrisy a theological error and depart from you, believing that the rest of your supposedly “good theology” isn’t really that good or necessary in order for one to be a Christian because your ethics and praxis do not align with scripture. This was the error of conservatives in the US for centuries. The liberal church and liberal politicians exploited that for their personal gain. (1)

Some ‘white evangelicals’ wonder why black churches are typically more liberal, even when the black church is still mostly orthodox and conservative overall. The answer to that question is simple: during the Jim Crow-era, the majority of ‘conservative’ seminaries were holding to Jim Crow policies – if not on paper, then as general unwritten policy (for the purpose of plausible deniability). The very conservative (fundamentalist) Bob Jones University JUST (2000) reversed their stance on ‘interracial marriage’. That’s only 19 years ago (to their credit, they have publicly admitted they were wrong on this and their segregated past – see the link above). While you may find an occasional ‘blip’ on the radar (i.e. Southern Seminary with one black graduate in the 40’s), just about every ‘conservative’ seminary that held to inerrancy, the inspiration of scripture, Deity of Christ, Trinity, 5 Solas, etc…either did not admit blacks, or make it culturally and socially uncomfortable for them to be there.

“But wait! Our denomination/seminary didn’t have anything in writing with regard to Jim Crow!”

Perhaps so.  But as a matter of culture, conversations like these often happened (sometimes in print)….

“Some people are….uhmmm…. uncomfortable with you being here. We’ve had some complaints. You know how it is… things are different where they live and grew up…. we’re not saying anything is wrong with you, but maybe it would be a good idea for you to transfer to somewhere that’s a little more….friendly to your kind….we’ll give you full transfer credit…”

“While we were impressed with your academic credentials, we do not believe at this time you would be a good fit for our seminary.”

And as conservative, supposedly-bible-believing folks rejected or encouraged black folks to leave, liberal seminaries took them. Not only did they take them, but they fought against conservatives supporting segregation using conservative theological hermeneutics and arguments  – the same arguments used by abolitionists like William Wilberforce and Alexander McLeod.  That hypocrisy shamed many some of them out of their sinful habits and into repentance…..a bit late, but repentance nonetheless. Praise God for that.

We’ve heard the jokes about seminaries/cemeteries. Some of the older black folks recognized the difference in their pastors in the 40’s-60’s when they came back from these liberal seminaries, denying major tenets of the faith, but teaching a Christian moralism. In addition, the story of scripture was now being framed through culture and politics – liberation theology or the ‘social gospel’. The story of scripture was no longer centered on Christ as Savior, but on Christ as liberator from oppressive social systems. This approach acknowledged the humanity of those oppressed at the expense of other life-dependent biblical truths.

Crozer Theological Seminary produced Martin Luther King. King’s anthropology was biblical (he believed in the Imago Dei), but that fell right in line with liberation theology. King and others recognized the hypocrisy of their conservative counterparts by their denial of Lev. 19:18 and Gen. 1:26 in their practice. Unfortunately, in his seminary papers, King denied the Virgin Birth , Substitutionary Atonement (calling it ‘cosmic child abuse’), the Trinity, the Resurrection and more. There is no evidence he ever changed his mind on these views (apologies to all those who attended the MLK50 conference who thought otherwise).

As a result of these and other factors over the past century and a half, there has been a legacy of separation between black and white American Christians. That separation is social, cultural and theological; people grouped up with those who looked like them, believed like them or accepted them as equal human beings. Conservative whites who supported segregation (or didn’t speak out against it) were viewed as hypocrites; as a result, their theology in other areas was viewed as suspect. The so-called ‘liberals’ who treated black folks in accordance with scripture as full human beings were given a place at the table in black communities.

Thankfully, not all black churches went completely liberal. Quite a few stayed biblically faithful on the fundamentals of the faith, even though their neighbors down the road affirmed most of the same core doctrines but wouldn’t welcome them as brethren. The church I ‘grew up’ in was your average, biblically-solid, dispensational, inerrantist, independent baptist church. The founding pastor is a graduate of Captial Bible Seminary (one of the first if not the first black graduate) and studied under the late Charles Ryrie (at what was once Philadelphia College of the Bible). There were (and still are) many black churches in my home city of Baltimore that fit this description, despite their pastors having earned degrees from very liberal seminaries.

That brings us back to where Lecrae is now in his ‘divorce’ from ‘white evangelicalism’. The issues he mentions should be attended to. I remember when Curt Kennedy rapped at Piper’s church in 05 or 06, some of the feedback from ‘white evangelicals’ was harsh, unloving and downright anti-Christian. I remember Shai Linne chiming in on one of those conversations defending Curt and Christian Hip Hop as a whole (someone copied it in the second post on this link – the internet never forgets). Folks on the original post called it ungodly and worldly.  They did so because in their experience of ‘white evangelicalism’, there was no room for anything culturally other than hymns with an organ or piano. They equated their cultural expression of the faith to orthodoxy.

Yet, God was pleased, as Paul Washer stated, to use these men and others to go places Edwards and Whitfield could not go and reach. He still uses biblically sound CHH for this purpose today, even if folks choose not to see it or acknowledge it.

Even so, the same danger lies in wait for black Christians. Malcolm X once spoke on the difference between a wolf and a fox. The fox pretends to be friendly vs the wolf. Liberals – in general – have learned to listen to and sympathize with people of color in the US. Empathy and compassion won out. This gave liberals a foothold in black communities that remains to this day. Thus, when conservatives respond with Secular Religious Conservativism, they do more to continue the cycle of pushing people of color away from them. The bulk of people of color look at these folks and say “although we share some things in common, you do not and cannot represent me or a place I would be welcome because you speak against other core things I believe. You appear to care more about preserving the culture of the country than spreading the gospel and loving humans who look differently than you”.  An example of this can be seen in the comments section of Nathaniel Strickland’s blogpost (linked here) regarding John Piper’s comments about the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

Even with empathy and compassion, when the gospel and the whole counsel of God is reduced to social justice and intersectionalism, you are left empty. There is no hope in Christ with intersectionalism, as the only thing it will produce is a new set of  oppressors and oppressed (usually, with both parties simply switching places in an attempt at ‘justice’).  There is no true God of scripture with intersetionalism, since its’ focus is horizontal relationships and not THE vertical relationship. There is no hope or lasting solution in intersectionalism for actual solutions in the long-term because intersectionalism doesn’t have a solution for the human condition. That will always be the fundamental issue.

The danger is real – black believers must SHUN and AVOID the world’s classifications of the problems that we deal with. Black believers must SHUN and AVOID the world’s solutions for the problems we are dealing with. Watching some conversations happen, I see some black believers following the world’s trends, sociological approaches and verbiage. They adopt things which have a layer or two of truth to them, but whose foundation is poison and unbiblical.  The world is not oppressor and oppressed, but sinner and sinner.  Both stand in need of redemption in Christ, no matter which ‘side’ wields power. True unity begins with the cross.

Let me be clearer on this point. Liberals sometimes get things right. The problem is that they approach solutions without dealing with the root issue: sin.

Believers of color who wish to address ‘white evangelicalism’, need to do so with scriptural solutions in hand. ‘White Evangelicals’ need to be open to criticisms and approach their brethren in a fashion other than dismissive or deflective (and yes, simply blanket-labeling everyone a Marxist is dismissive and deflective…it’s also intellectually lazy and a breaking of the ninth commandment).

Believers of color need to remember Christ’s patience with them when they were thick-headed, slow to understand and short on patience. They also need to remember that as Christ lives in the hearts of their white brethren, they need to curb the ‘anger’ approach. Yes, be angry and do not sin. So approach your brethren as brethren and not ‘the enemy’. Key word – brethren.

This requires black believers in Christ not simply to rehash old and current wrongs, but to forgive them.  You can’t hold on to anger about the past and expect to move forward.  This is not simply pretending the past never existed, but acknowledging it and all of the evil associated with it, but not holding it against those currently alive. This is what Joseph did with his brothers in Genesis 45 and 50:20.

At the same time, this also involves tell the truth about the legacy and results of institutionalized and cultural racism in the present day. Those things also exist.  We are not to back away from them or pretend that they do not exist, but point them out as issues and bring solutions to the table (more on the solutions aspect of this in a bit).  This is also what Joseph did with his brothers in Genesis 45 and 50:20.

Recently (2018), I came across a post in a well-known Facebook group, a member posted that in his observation, one of the great fears he has is that of being ‘right’. Specifically, being right about racism, right about white evangelicals and white conservatives dodging and ducking the inconsistencies in their own behavior and beliefs, purposeful (in some cases) ignorance of history, blind about their own cultural glasses that tint (and taint) how they approach scripture, culture and those who don’t look like them and so on. He noted that what has welled up in the black community is a continual anger, bitterness and attitude of  dislike and hatred toward white people. The poster also stated (rightly) that in this state, there is the danger of becoming smug and arrogant, thinking that ‘we’ have the moral high ground and turning into the very same people we argue against. “Both white supremacy and moral superiority are rooted in self-righteousness”, he wrote.  He’d had enough. Several other people chimed in and said they thought they were the only ones who felt this way.  Their common desire was to see healing and shalom for the entire situation and not a continued loop of rehashing and condemning.

When I called out James White in 2016, I carefully made it clear that I don’t believe he’s my enemy (I still don’t).  I’ve even had a recent exchange with someone regarding whether or not I think he’s racist (I don’t).  I just think he’s willfully intellectually lazy on this topic, since he insists on attacking as much ‘low hanging fruit’ as possible, while ignoring hard critiques of his position.

Still, He’s my brother in Christ. He may have missed some things I said – either willfully or on accident (his response on The DL back in 2016 half-quoted me at times, so I’m inclined to say it was willful), but that makes him a believer with a blind spot. It doesn’t excuse it. Hopefully, he’ll understand one day. If not, it’ll get resolved in eternity. I don’t believe he’s a racist (because one of his followers will come on here claiming I called him one).

I do believe that he, like many other white believers who dwell in SRC-land, is trying to navigate this discussion and is afraid of being WRONGLY labeled a racist. I also believe that he, like quite a few of his followers, view these discussions at least partially (if not fully) through the lens of SRC and mistake that for orthodoxy Christianity. Unlike many other times when he is careful and meticulous, I believe that due to the aforementioned fear, he has retreated into the quickest strawman argument he can find (the boogeymen of cultural marxism, neomarxism, racial marxism, etc…) and mostly stopped listening.  He ends up talking past the people he criticizes, since he believes (wrongly) that this discussion is about a never-ending blame game instead of addressing a real and practical issue. A somewhat recent exchange with Thabiti Anyabwile is a good demonstration of this.

Since I wrote the above paragraph in 2018 (it’s now July 2019), I’ve had additional run-ins with James’s twitter posts which seem to confirm what I’ve suspected (that on this topic, he primarily gets his information from secular conservative websites and websites pretending to be Christian that repeat secular conservative arguments, some of which are tinged with racism, but vague enough to have plausible deniability). One of my next posts will deal with this.

As a result, many black believers I’ve seen address these and other topics have grown tired (and angry) at cut-and-paste SRC answers culled from secular conservative websites. We’ve grown tired of explaining the same things repeatedly to people who should see it clearer than others.  It is indeed as though we (black and white believers) are living in two different worlds.

So both ‘sides’ come at each other like the world – angry, impatient and ready to hit the ‘post’ button. I’ve been guilty of it. The solution continues to be the gospel message believed and applied, Christ’s love & the Imago Dei as the starting point. Micah 6:8/1 John 3:4-10 is a gospel issue, not a pet social issue. But it must be handled rightly.

In the interests of moving the conversation toward action and not simply tons of blog posts and tweets designed to further resentments, I propose the following:

1. Think carefully before you post or speak. Speak graciously, truthfully and accurately. Speak truth even when it goes against your personally accepted and culturally accepted sociopolitical narratives.  Proverbs 10:19 reads “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.  This sword cuts both ways. Is what you’re saying truthful ? Is it helpful ? Is your objective to speak truth and impart grace or to be ‘right’ ? Are you seeking to win your brother/sister or win the argument ?  Are you seeking to separate  and divide or to bring  gospel repentance and gospel conformity (2 Cor. 10:5) ? Are you seeking to inflame ?  Yes, your words matter as do the intention of your words. Honest words matter. Gracious words matter. Jesus didn’t always flip tables and drive out money changers (John 2, Matthew 21).  With some, He spoke tenderly (John 4), offered grace instead of condemnation while still calling sin what it is (John 8).  Prayer, wisdom and maturity are needed to accomplish this task. Jude 22-23 alongside 2 Tim. 2:24-26 are good guidance in what to say and how to say it. Avoid simply parroting  secular websites and their approaches (conservative or liberal).

2. Acknowledge hard truths.  Listen to understand, not to ‘answer’. There are sociological and economic issues in the black community, but they didn’t develop in a vacuum. Yes, the legacy of slavery (family separations, Jim Crow/Segregation, lynchings, socio-cultural stereotypes of black folks, eugenics, domestic terrorism, redlining, etc…) still has a direct impact on black communities today. Racist socio-cultural pathologies in white communities (hate crimes based on ethnicity, ethnic and cultural superiority) didn’t magically vanish in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The ‘curse of Ham‘, for example, was still taught in American seminaries up through the 80’s (Tony Evans notes in the linked article that both the Old Scofield Study Bible and C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch’s OT Commentary published in 1987 take this position).  That goes against the accepted SRC narrative trope of ‘slavery ended 150 years ago, everything else is your fault individually from your choices ‘.  Behavior toward African-Americans is influenced by this, law enforcement policies are influenced by this, political policies are influenced by this[2]. The media  and American culture have been complicit for over 100 years in spreading this programming of fear of black people in America.

For those of you reading this who think that this is simply ‘liberal propaganda’, ‘rehashing old wrongs that have nothing to do with today’  and ‘race baiting that started under Obama’, check the research on footnote #2 above. We are living in a legacy of past decisions which included racial segregation and discrimination which does have a direct impac

These are not things which black folks have just ‘all of a sudden’ began discussing. The difference is that social media has enabled those stories to be told that you normally never heard. Remember this ? Yes, it’s from a sitcom.  Twenty-six years ago.  Yes, it was talked about in the black community regularly, but no, the topic didn’t have a national stage.  A friend of mine posted one of his DWB (Driving While Black) incidents in 2016 and asked others on his friends’ list to chime in.  The post is currently over 100+ responses with events shared by multiple people (myself included).

We didn’t all grow up in the ‘same America’ and we need to beware of the cultural/ethnic assumptions that come with this view.  The cultural divide is real, not imagined. Growing up in Roland Park is not the same as growing up in Sandtown (both in Baltimore City, Maryland). Kids in Roland Park have never known the police coming through their neighborhood, telling groups of three or more to ‘break it up’, ‘stop playing ball in the street’ or any number of other things kids do regularly as kids.  Neither have they known police to approach them aggressively and disrespectfully on first encounter, treating them like felons-in-waiting from the beginning (related note: Martin O’Malley, former mayor and governor, is largely responsible for the current mess that Baltimore City is in with regard to law enforcement, crime and the lack of community support/engagement). A family friend who works in law enforcement confirmed that different types of ‘policing’  are purposely done in different neighborhoods, mostly based on color and ethnicity (closely linked with income and influence) in order to produce the needed “Lockup Quotas” that the local governments contract with private prisons for.

These things are true. They are not simply perspective. It’s also true that black folks are no longer in the 1960’s. Despite the imperfections of the United States of America, it is no longer

3.  If you only bring up statistics to silence people you disagree with, you need to check your heart.  You care about being right, not about truth. Stay off secular websites that use this tactic (both conservative and liberal).

What’s your reason for bringing up the rate of unwed births in the black community ? Do you have a solution ? Do you plan on going into those communities, setting up a beachhead and preaching to the community ? Do you plan on going in and mentoring young black boys whose fathers may not be a part of their lives ? Do you plan on going into those communities and helping the single mothers with the task of raising a child ?

I’m serious.

I’ve seen a number of people who speak out against so-called ‘social justice’, ‘racial marxism’ and other related topics are very apt to try to use statistics to get their opponents to shut up. A basic logic lesson for you:

  • Group A points out problem with Group B’s treatment of Group A.
  • Group B points out that Group A has a similar problem caused by other members of Group A.
  • Assumed conclusion is that Group A should focus on problems with other members of Group A first.

The problem, of course, is that Group B never addresses their own behavior; they blame shift from the original complaint and deflect off to another issue.  That is a secular tactic, but should never be the approach of the Christian. Ever.  It’s lazy, selfish and a direct violation of Lev. 19:18 and Galatians 6:2.

When it comes to abortion, you don’t only speak; you vote pro-life, you support pro-life policies, you engage in pro-life activities (e.g. volunteering or giving to pregnancy centers, counseling women and men in unplanned pregnancy situations and even adopting and fostering kids born to parents who chose life, but can’t keep the child).  In these cases, statistics (e.g. the number of abortions per day, the number of families waiting to adopt) are never used as weapons to shut people up and never thrown out to deflect away from one argument with a distraction by another. They are never used as hammers to beat people into silence.

You are a hypocrite if you preach ‘be warm and fed’ to one group while bringing food and blankets to another.

4. Don’t be an ‘ally’ – be a brother/sister in Christ.  Let me be clear: the person on the other end of this discussion is not your enemy.  Stop approaching them as such.

Ephesians 4 gives some great guidance for this and all upcoming discussions:

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,  eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—  one Lord, one faith, one baptism,  one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (v. 1-6)

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.  Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,  and give no opportunity to the devil. (v. 25-27)

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (v. 29-32).

Scripture calls for a different kind of relationship when discussing areas of disagreement with brothers and sisters and that extends to the blogsphere.  We absolutely cannot operate like the secular communities which may have some of our moral/political positions in common.

This sword cuts both ways.

We cannot guilt present-day white believers into ‘feeling bad for being white because of what white folks before them did’.  Don’t get me wrong: redlining and discrimination in the 40’s definitely did give some middle and upper-middle class white families decades of advancement over their black counterparts so that the ‘starting points’ for their grandchildren in 2019 are different and disproportionate.  But that white millennial in 2019 stepping into the business world is not responsible for what his grandparents did

Neither can we ignore problems in black communities and pretend they are simply figments of the imaginations of black folks who experience them. A few

Neither can we demonize and speak untruthfully of those we disagree with. A little over a week ago, The Founders’ Ministry (a reformed sub-group in the Southern Baptist Convention) released a trailer for an upcoming documentary movie on the so-called ‘Dangers of Social Justice in the SBC’ called “By What Standard ?“. As Tony Arsenal rightly points out over at  the Reformed Arsenal blog, the video purposely uses unrelated clips to make people look like they believe something they don’t.  The music, setting, coloring, etc… are all made to incite negative feelings against those speaking out regarding social justice issues, as though their ultimate goal is to undermine biblical authority. This is blatantly dishonesty. It’s lying. It’s a 9th commandment violation.  Period. Believers are commanded to treat each other differently.

*there is an update to this section. See footnote #3 below.

5. Any and all approaches and discussions need to work toward fellowship, reconciliation and co-laboring together, not false accusations and division. That’s going to require BOTH ‘sides’ to back off harsh secular attack style tactics.  James White once (correctly) stated this:

https://twitter.com/DrOakley1689/status/1034933115553079297

Yet he posted things like this repeatedly:

Folks who normally support him (lay people) have been addressing him about it, but his response has generally been the same as you see above (additional examples aren’t needed….his twitter is still littered with them).

Let me be clear: these are the tactics of the secular conservative movement, not Christians. This behavior is not glorifying to Christ.  I *am* thankful that he has recently (late July 2019) decided to stop posting material like this on Twitter, other than show announcements and another encouraging post showing a different attitude (though it seems folks haven’t forgotten yet):

But this is after he has already produced a number of ‘clones’ who act in the same acerbic/acidic style of commenting and conversing that he has demonstrated over the past few years. I think one thing that would go far with him and others is a simple repudiation of past behaviors.

American politics and American society affect all of us, even those of us who think we are ‘colorblind’.

Why these five points ?

Simple. The church as a whole was part of the creation of the racism problem. We need to be part of the solution as well. I will say a lot more to say as this series continues. Notice, I said we. The Body of Christ.  Not simply ‘black Christians’ or ‘white evangelicals’.

I’d like to unpack a gospel-centered approach to what each of these points for moving forward look like.  In the next article, we’ll tackle point #1. Read up in Ephesians 4 between now and then.

Take care.

============
(1) For the record, all theological conservatives didn’t go along with segregation. The RPCNA rightly repudiated ‘perpetual negro slavery’ as antithetical to the gospel in the early 1800’s. Men like Charles Haddon Spurgeon spoke strongly against slavery and found themselves very unpopular in the Southern US (including standing death threats and book burnings). Men like John Brown led uprisings and rebellions over the injustice of slavery.  Unfortunately, their voices are often ignored or drowned out among the other ‘conservative’ voices that supported the practice.

(2) Literally: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Birth_of_a_Nationhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2018/07/26/critics-say-the-media-makes-innocent-blacks-look-dangerous-heres-their-latest-example/?utm_term=.3111e5329792https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGJMgCn0fQs  for starters.  For a scholarly treatment of this subject, see these links:

(3) Within A week after I typed this section, three of the six members of the Founders’ admitted that in their conviction, the video did violate the 9th commandment (Fred Malone believed both the 6th and 9th commandments). They could not agree with the rest of the board that the video was sinful in its’ presentation, so they resigned. Several individuals originally filmed for the project have asked that their contributions be taken out of the film, Founders Min pulled the original video, edited it and reuploaded it (this time, also addressing the claims by points made by Tony Arsenal by labelling where each clip came from, even though the order of the clips makes no sense). While I believe there is a legitimate concern for intersectionalism and other unbiblical sociological tools being imported into the church, the approach of this project (based on the trailer) seems to be more about casting the folks at FoundersMin as the ‘heroes’ against an insidious foe (with dramatic music, grainy black and white-filtered video and more) rather than being a serious engagement with a desire to bring about Biblical unity.

Blocks, Blindness, Deafness and Bridges: Addressing James White and Rich Pierce

Update: a mutual friend of James White and Rich Pierce and I told me the following:

Just an observation:While Rich’s interaction with you deserves observation and comment, I think it’s a separate issue to what James said. Conflating the two mistakes Rich for James. They may work together but Rich goes to a different church and often has differing opinions than Dr. White.

You were blocked by Rich. And I think that does need addressing.

—–

Fair enough. I was actually blocked by both (found out that Rich controls twitter feed for both). For the reader: while I address both men in this post, be mindful of when I’m addressing one or the other. While I believe (per my observation of their postings) that both are in agreement on this topic, I could be wrong.  I thought I did a good job of separating the two, but may not have done so well enough. Feedback welcome.

———–

The Sovereignty of God is a funny thing to watch play out, especially when you’re in the middle of it.

So I decide to jump back into blogging/online discussions and interactions. I’ve literally been out of the way since about 2010 because BlackCalvinist needed to sit down, chill out and rest for a bit. 2005-2010 BlackCalvinist had a reputation for being very biblically accurate and occasionally very harsh and non-loving in his presentation. Some of that reputation is justified; I’ve been known to degenerate a conversation to talking about my opponent’s mother being so fat she’s on both sides of the family. The snark and sarcasm ran deep with me (and still does to a degree).

Fast-forward to 2016. My wife has mellowed me out. My church has done the same. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past six years away from the internet – occasional discussions on FB and a few videos here and there, but generally nothing consistent. Life Doctrine Music has eTumbleweeds rolling through it and TCDC only has had 3-4 significant posts since 2010.

Long story short: no internet issues or drama. None. And I’m trying to keep it that way.

Recently, James R. White, who I’ve repeatedly said (even to him) is my favorite author , has been under fire for some comments he made about a young black teen he caught on his dash cam flipping off the police and littering. Those comments were deleted shortly afterward, but the internet never forgets.

In the interest of letting folks speak for themselves, you need to do some reading and listening to catch up:

Dr. White’s original comments (saved to a pdf file, but readily found on various websites on the internet, although I know someone has a screen shot of it….): James White – Original Comments

Ekemini Uwan (M.Div student at WTS) responds here:
https://www.raanetwork.org/where-are-our-white-allies/

Jemar Tisby and the good folk at RAAN did a first podcast on the issue: https://www.raanetwork.org/pass-mic-processing-james-white-jemar-tisby/

White responds to Ekemini’s original post here (and also on AOmin.org’s official blog): https://chesed297.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/gospel-lenses-and-the-search-for-allies/

I will come back to this post in a bit as the basis of White’s argumentation is found here.

White also did an entire podcast with a blurb at the end discussing what reconciliation is according to Colossians 1:
http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2016/03/31/colossians-1-reconciliation/

Jemar Tisby and company over at RAAN responded with another podcast:
https://www.raanetwork.org/pass-mic-live-response-james-white/

Marcus Ortega responds to White over at Reformed Margins:
http://reformedmargins.com/reformed-world-minorities-stay/

To which White responded with:
https://chesed297.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/guilty-without-possibility-of-innocence/

Since then, RAAN and Reformed Margins have released additional blogposts talking directly to the issues involved.

The rest of the reformed world is noticing as well.

Dan DeWitt from Southern Seminary hit the overall issue in passing: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/dont-like-diversity-youll-hate-heaven

Tim Challies chimed in as well on a larger-but-related problem (read the articles):

The article by Marcus Ortega was shared by a friend of mine and I then decided to share it on my timeline. I agreed – the good doctor did indeed miss a good opportunity to dialogue and communicate more effectively. I’m used to seeing Doc engage those on the other side of a discussion with him, so this was very VERY out of character. I’d been warned by a few people that he’d been rebuffing brothers in Christ who approached him to discuss the issue (some were willing to fly out and talk with him in person).

A little background is in order: I came to know the works of Dr. White back in the late 90’s starting with The King James Only Controversy. Many of his other works including The Roman Catholic Controversy, Mary: Another Redeemer and The Mormon Controversy, have all benefited me much in ministry over the years. The Potter’s Freedom is actually the book (alongside of Arthur Custance’s “The Sovereignty of Grace”) that helped me to understand and see the biblical basis for the doctrines of grace back in December of 2000.

I actually had a small stint as an op in his IRC channel, #prosapologian in the early 2000’s (some of you might remember me as OS_X or Xarminian). I’ve interacted with Doc, watched him interact with others over time and always appreciated the way he would actually interact with his opponents (especially Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong). So with all of that said, I’m not some random trouble maker (or any kind of trouble maker for that matter).

Back to the present. We share multiple friends in common, so Rich Pierce (president of Alpha and Omega Ministries) pops in on my post (it was public) to comment.

From this point, you can read the entire exchange here:

http://blackcalvinist.com/tcdc/files/exchange.pdf

Caught up ? Good.

pic1Let’s focus on Rich’s interaction with me for a minute.

Now I know I’m not crazy. Several people hit me up privately thinking that threat to contact elders was a bit out of line. I’m thankful one friend spoke up immediately about the incident.

In light of everything that’s been said about Dr. White, right or wrong, I figured instead of making a public deal about the comment, I’d contact Rich privately. I wrote him the following message:

pmtorich

I’m not the only one who thought that his threat to contact elders could be read incorrectly as a strong-arm tactic. One friend commented (name withheld):

Friend: So… Is Rich saying he’d contact the elders on you? Or am I reading that incorrectly. Tell me I am… I’m re-reading….

Me: I’ve already contacted him privately and told him that his post will get read as “white man trying to silence any criticism by intimidation” and that he should remove it.

Friend: chile because that’s how I read it. that’s EXACTLY how I read it.

Friend: And that threat has been used against me too…why, man? sigh…. I don’t know if he meant it like that, but…it’s so sad…..Someone did that to me during the Trayvon Martin situation

Me: I’m really REALLY holding back. I’m even typing slow.

Friend: I say just let it be.. seriously you already know the answer to this..

(For the record, more friends contacted me privately as well.)

Last thing a white guy being accused of being racist or insensitive needs is to get perceived as racist or insensitive based on one post.

What I was expecting was “Hey, I deleted my post. I figured there was a better way to respond to this. I didn’t want to seem like I was threatening you or trying to intimidate you. Call it a flub in communication.

What I got was blocked with all comments apparently deleted. Of course, the internet never forgets (hence, the PDF file of the initial exchange).

So….of course, I mention publicly that the good Mr. Rich has deleted his posts.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one expecting a more mature response from Rich, as the responses that follow my initial post show. The post is still up – you can read it yourself from here, as none of my friends or myself have edited or deleted anything.

Speaking of which, Rich posted this immediately after (with commentary from some of his friends):

Rich Pierce’s post on his timeline

Please make sure you note the discussion and the attempts by some of our common friends to give Rich the benefit of the doubt. One of them (as you can read) ends up blocked.

As an FYI, both posts are public on FB. Google has already indexed them.

Here’s the original Post on FB, beginning with me announcing that I’d been blocked. Read onward from here.  Two of my friends attempt to respectfully engage Dr. White on Twitter…. again, you can read the convo and see their screen shots. A little further down, you’ll see two of my friends –  Mike and Dave – try to dialogue with Dr. White on Twitter.  Luke (who commented on FB) also gets blocked.

The entire experience has been more than a bit disappointing. I’ve never known JRW or Rich Pierce to not engage folks in conversation or run from conversations where people have approached them respectfully and in an irenic fashion.

Analysis

Of course, this is where the nice BlackCalvinist steps aside and the polemical BlackCalvinist steps up.

The initial issue I and others had with Dr. White’s comments were that he was completely graceless in his observations and future predictions for this boy. Ekemini and others pointed that out repeatedly. He, in effect, ignored the fact that this young teen boy was still made in the image of God and simply reduced him to a throw-away set of statistics. The fact that he continued to double-down on them and ignore/rebuff the multiple godly men who approached him privately only to argue with a female M.Div student on social media is unsettling.

(I am a complimentarian – I will not, as a grown man, skip discussions with men who approach me to go argue with a woman, regardless of their education level)

This is not the James White we’re all used to seeing.

The James White we’re used to seeing put up a careful video blog on how to talk to Muslims in a fashion that seeks to win the soul of the individual. The James White we’re used to seeing wrote words that almost moved people to tears when he described the deep spiritual darkness he encountered every year he visited Salt Lake City to witness to Mormons. Where was all of this grace and care and hope in his description of the boy in the video ? Where was his prayer for the power of Christ to step in and change this boy’s heart from authority-hating and God-hating to God-honoring ? Where were the prayers for his mother (since he is assumed by Dr. White to probably be without a father) to help point him to godly men ?

Even more disturbing (and one person posted in the comments to him on Facebook) was the Pharisee-like, rose-colored glasses description of his own time period growing up, as though the sins of littering and contempt for authority only came into existence after his childhood was complete. As a student of history and culture (it overlaps with my professional job as a music instructor), the 1962-1980 time period in the country was filled with just as much turmoil, upheaval, contempt for authority, etc…. as the present. You and I are only separated by a decade in age. What made you to differ from the unsaved masses around you, Dr. White ?

Dr. White’s initial response to the first criticisms (and Rich Pierce deciding to follow along) consisted of creating an assumption based off one sentence, creating a term (racial gnosticism) and strawman attacking those who disagreed with him as violating a ‘colorblind’ interpretation of Galatians 3:28. He (wrongly) says that his opponents are choosing to define themselves first by race/ethnicity – a charge unsubstantiated by any of the blogposts of any of the individuals involved. If I didn’t see it, I’d have thought this Dave Hunt-level of argumentation came from…well…. Dave Hunt.

You can see it for yourself here:

https://chesed297.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/gospel-lenses-and-the-search-for-allies/

Notice carefully:  his argumentation is based on his own faulty, non-supported assumption in the sentence “This seems to indicate a primacy of race, not a primacy of gospel.”  How he got that from Ekemini’s actual definition of what she meant by it, I have no idea.  Ekemini wrote what a “racial cost-benefit analysis” consisted of and nothing in it consisted of a “primacy of race”:

“Whenever there is a social media post, story, or an incident involving race, as a person of color, I must do a racial cost-benefit analysis.

On the cost side, I measure the psychological, emotional, and sometimes, physiological toll it would take on my well-being, depending on the magnitude of the racial event.

On the benefit side, I measure the possibility of a teachable moment, the chance to change false narratives, and show how the gospel bears practical implications for racism, always with the hope that much fruit would come as a result. After completing my analysis, I determined the benefit outweighed the cost.”

Again, no “primacy of race” in this statement, but White makes up an accusation as he goes (this is called the straw man fallacy) and runs with it, pastes it on all of his critics and then dismisses them. No, Dr. White, you have done nothing other than attack a position you created in your head. This is academically dishonest.

Rich Pierce doesn’t fare any better. On his post on my timeline, he enters the post defensive and argumentative, repeating the same fallacious application of Galatians 3:28, as if Galatians 3:28 erases ethnicity from existence or even being mentioned. He then goes on to say that anyone who defines themselves by the color of their skin is a racist (mind you, he had no problems with James defining the young boy by his skin color).

Rich says he got angry because I told him what his words may be interpreted as. Yet, at least two of own friends took it the exact same way and even encouraged him to contact my elders (to be fair, one backtracked quickly when confronted with stuff he didn’t know….be quick to read and slower to speak, Jeff). My suggestion to him privately apparently had some merit!

jeff-durbin-jumps-in

one-friend-contact-elders

No, Mr. Pierce, you don’t get to strong-arm threaten me with possible church discipline, even though you tried to backtrack with Dale. I tagged my senior pastor immediately for multiple reasons. Top among them is that as an ordained deacon in the PCA, I have large amount of responsibility (per 1 Tim. 3 and Titus 1) before God to live with integrity. I am a LOT more careful with my words over the past three years, but rest assured – nothing to hide here and I don’t have a low view of the church, contra one or two of your posters. If you unblock or send one of your friends over to the original thread, you will also see where I tagged three additional elders from my church. If you’d like to contact any of them via telephone, contact me and I will put us all on conference call. I believe getting elders involved in this discussion may actually be beneficial.

You also don’t get to be offended when I tell you that others may be offended at your tone and wording. What you should do, as an ministry leader (and probably an elder, since I saw a few sermons from you online) is simply fess up that you took things wrong or that your own tone could have been better (again, that’s what I was expecting from you, which is why I contacted you and said you may want to respond differently), especially given the fact that I and everyone else in the original post approached you as brotherly as possible. You came into the post throwing around threats and accusations. You may have missed that in the midst of being angry and defensive.

You also don’t get to play the shell game with terminology. Redefining ‘racism’ to be anyone who defines themselves by their skin color is academically dishonest and poor argumentation. Dr. White wrote in his initial post: “In case anyone has not noticed, I am white. Scottish white. Like the Scots in the kilts charging the British at Stirling white.” By your own words then, Dr. White would be classified as a racist.

“Well of course he didn’t mean it that way! It’s just a descriptor!”

See last sentence and apply it. You are out of line (and engaging in a logical fallacy) in attempting to paint anyone who acknowledges that different biological ethnicities exist as a racist. Christian love does not attribute evil motives to those in the body over a disagreement like this. Christian integrity also seeks to deal truthfully (1 Cor. 13:6) with positions it disagrees with. You and Dr. White have not dealt truthfully with those you disagree with when representing their positions. You have created imaginary “racial gnostics” and attacked them.

The Root Of The Issue

While I will not assign white privilege or inherent racism to either man (I believe these ‘answers’ are too simplistic and ultimately not applicable in this case), I will point out a simple truth: we all have blind spots due to the noetic effects of the fall. Adam and Eve, when confronted by God in the garden, ran and hid themselves in Genesis 3. When confronted up close (seriously….where are you going to run from God ?), Adam blame-shifted to God….”this woman YOU gave me”, as Adam ignored his own immediate blind spots – it was he who abdicated his responsibilities as husband in taking the fruit and following the lead of his wife.

Blind spots.

The Christian life is a life-length marathon to overcome those blind spots. For some of us, it’s eschatology. It’s why you can have can sit Ken Gentry, Darrell Bock and John Piper on the same stage and they come to different conclusions on the details of the end times. For others, it’s reformed theology. John MacArthur called Wesley a “confused Calvinist”, since Wesley often wrote in his journals that he did not believe he was regenerate, even though in the same journal entries he would show signs of and the fruits of a regenerate life.

Dabney and Edwards wrote spectacular theological bodies of work that have been referenced again and again. Both men had a gift for taking the complex ideas of scripture and explaining it in a way that the layman could easily access. But Dabney stumbled at the imago dei when he supported the chattel slavery practices of Virginia (and in general). How’d he miss that ? Edwards went back and forth on the issue during the course of his life, dying still a slave owner (he did not free his slaves in his will). But his son became an abolitionist. The fog of blindness was starting to lift, apparently; enough to influence his son.

Those blind spots may hit at some uncomfortable areas – most white folks I know are quietly terrified of being called racist or even anything near to racist. They genuinely try to treat people as people and are ashamed of the segregationist past of the US.  So instead of pointing out/noticing differences, they go to the opposite extreme of ignoring/minimizing any differences between themselves and others in an effort to be egalitarian. The well-meaning refrain is “I don’t even see color!”

They run like Usain Bolt from these conversations and become instantly defensive to anyone and anything that may touch their “uncomfort” zones. They’re not familiar with the issues, the people, and what appears to them to be a whole separate ‘culture and language’. They don’t know how to talk and are afraid of what to say because it may be taken wrong. So they stay silent when they should speak up or they say things which are taken wrong because of tone or bad wording. Sometimes, they do believe and follow narratives about black people that they learn from the media (conservative or other).

Let me offer you some advice I picked up last past weekend (weekend of April 1). My wife and I spent this last weekend at the Weekend to Remember Conference at Skytop Lodge in the Poconos. Beautiful area – peaceful. One of the speakers – I believe it was Tim Downs – gave us an example of how familiarity breeds contempt and impatience. He said that years ago, there was a study done where some people asked for directions in a metropolitan area – initially with an obviously American accent from that area/region. Those people were treated a bit less friendly and with more impatience. Those same people went out and feigned different accents from different nationalities, again asking for directions. As the people appear to be more ‘alien and stranger’ to them, the study found that people were more patient, detailed and kind with the directions they gave. The exhortation was that husbands should be at least this patient with their wives.

I think there’s application here too. You came in ready to report people to elders, throwing around terms and telling us that they aren’t just buzzwords. You wouldn’t do that if you were a missionary overseas in an African country (or an Asian country). You’d be a lot more patient, kind, and loving. Maybe it’s because I live in America and you’re already familiar (via whatever narrative you’ve been following….that’ll be tackled in the post after this one) with ‘black issues’ via all those statistics you cited, so you figured nothing else was needed.

On Monday when this all took place, Rich Pierce attempted to burn a bridge over a disagreement. He and Dr. White are scared. They may hide it with anger and supposed righteous indignation, but both are scared. Anyone paying attention can see that the quality of exegetical discussion and polemical approach given by Dr. White in his responses (video and written) has been of a far lower than any of his exchanges with Muslims, Mormons and even with Jehovah’s Witness apologist, Martin Smart.

(remember this post ? This is when I contacted you because I was ‘stuck’ on John 15 as a new Calvinist – http://www.aomin.org/aoblog/index.php/2013/01/11/john-15-the-vine-and-the-branches-and-an-example-of-cultic-scripture-twisting-provided-by-martin-smart-one-of-jehovahs-witnesses-vintage/)

These conversations may be new territory and they don’t know how to respond. They may be especially scared since Doc believes that his words have already been twisted. So they run, screaming at the top of their lungs so they can’t hear. They attack before they can be attacked. The problem with running, of course is that others look at you and say “if you haven’t done anything wrong, why are you running ?”

While I will call you both out on what appears to be hypocrisy in your approach, actions and dealings, I will also pray for both of you to be convicted and publicly repent of your approach, your actions and attitude. I do not believe you are both ‘racists’ (some of your supporters, not so much based on their posts…). I do believe this is simply unfamiliar territory for you and you haven’t learned how to listen, empathize and communicate yet. And because it becomes so personal when we broach this topic (can’t escape the culture we live in), you’re both the skittish equivalent of startled deer. Startled deer fight back hard and they also run.

So the same question I asked you in the post still stands.

Instead of “listening to respond”, you could listen to understand and then respond in a brotherly fashion instead of as opponents and enemies.

Are you more concerned about winning the argument or winning the brother/sister ?

This is called a bridge. Walk across it instead of trying to burn it.

That doesn’t mean we’ll always agree. But it means we don’t demonize each other as you’ve sought to do. The basis of reconciliation of any kind for us is the gospel. So I appeal to you both as a brother in Christ – repent, sit at the table with your brethren and have discussions with them. You will grow and so will they.

****

Three small postscripts:

We’re all using (even you) the word “race” to describe linked/related ethnic, biological and cultural differences.  We know full well there’s only one ‘race’ – human. We’re using the word ‘race’ because it’s the word we’re stuck with. Ekemini pointed this out in her article on RAAN, so has Trillia Newbell in her book United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity. So has John Piper.

There’s a lot more to write here. I’ll be addressing the topic both on video on my YouTube channel in the near future as well as on my main blog at Theologically Correct dot Com.  I do have an addendum post for this that I’ll be adding shortly (it’ll be a new post) that will deal with some additional observations over the past week on this topic, especially since a few new articles (helpful ones) have come out since then.

Featured Image Photo Credit: AP Photo/Pioneer Press, Brandi Jade Thomas. Cars are strewn on the collapsed portion of the Interstate 35W bridge, which stretches between Minneapolis and St. Paul, after it collapsed Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, into the Mississippi River during evening rush hour.