Douglas Wilson responds to SBTS' Slavery and Racism report

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Joel Shaffer's picture

Full of strawman arguments.  For instance, I've never heard or seen any Black conservative evangelical (and I interact with hundreds at different CE conferences across the country) that define or view white privilege as "the sin of simply being white."  If Wilson's arguments are going to be taken seriously outside his echo chamber and not seen as slanderous nonsense, he needs to give specific examples of the "woke" SBC evangelicals who actually hold to such an extreme view of the term.    Also, owning up to the sins of one's institutional past doesn't mean that somehow you have embraced "white guilt." (Hasty Generalization Fallacy).       

By the way here is an article from 9Marks' Jonathan Leeman that pretty much sums up the beliefs of the many SBC folk that I know who are working towards racial reconciliation.  Their beliefs on issues such as White Privilege, Identity Politics, White Guilt, and etc  are quite different than the straw man caricature that WIlson attempts to create in his article.      https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/more-than-mere-equality/

 

Jay's picture

...anything to do with Douglas Wilson.  For a multitude of reasons, not the which of least is that he has continually referred to himself as a "Paleo-Confederate" (in his book Black and Tan) and engaged in revisionist history to defend the South and its' peculiar institution of slavery.

I never cease to be amazed at how many evangelicals buy into his...writings.  There's more than enough garbage around him to warrant separation from all of it and him in particular.

 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Bert Perry's picture

I think that Wilson really misses the point here.  The SBC is painfully aware that their denomination split from the Northern Baptists to preserve slavery--the Methodists and Presbyterians had similar splits, for reference--and those who led that split also put in place documents that guided the SBC through the end of slavery and nearly 100 years of Jim Crow.

As such, a good look at the arguments rendered for slavery might well reveal some errors in other places, and hence correcting the errors of today could very well require repentance from the errors of the past.  It's really a theological version of root cause analysis like that used in the popular 8D form.  As a rule, a well done 8D will involve management and even quality systems changes, not just "sorry our product didn't work". 

Or, put in more theological terms, one part of a real apology is to not just say that what you did is wrong, but to clarify how you know it is wrong, and what steps you are going to take to reduce the chances it won't happen again.  

(Wilson hasn't done this well, IMO, since he accused Boz Tchividjian of being an ambulance chaser)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Andrew K's picture

Jim wrote:

Huh... weird. My great-grandparents emigrated from Finland in the 1920s. Wilson, you're scaring me. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Huh... weird. My great-grandparents emigrated from Finland in the 1920s. Wilson, you're scaring me. 

I think Doug's point is that the blame for slavery is being put on people who clearly had nothing to do with slavery (hence, coming from Finland in the 1920s). The sin is in being white, not in being guilty of actual slavery or racism.

Andrew K's picture

Larry wrote:

Huh... weird. My great-grandparents emigrated from Finland in the 1920s. Wilson, you're scaring me. 

I think Doug's point is that the blame for slavery is being put on people who clearly had nothing to do with slavery (hence, coming from Finland in the 1920s). The sin is in being white, not in being guilty of actual slavery or racism.

Right. But what I mean is, my great-grandparents on my mother's side actually did emigrate from Finland in the 1920s...

WallyMorris's picture

Contrary to some comments here, I think Wilson's article does not "miss the point" but gets "the point" very well. As far as "ambulance chaser", based on Wilson's personal knowledge of the situation he talks about, he is in a position to make that point.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Jim's picture

WallyMorris wrote:

Contrary to some comments here, I think Wilson's article does not "miss the point" but gets "the point" very well. As far as "ambulance chaser", based on Wilson's personal knowledge of the situation he talks about, he is in a position to make that point.

My view too!

Andrew K's picture

Wilson does bring up an interesting question, though: at what point could we say past grievances have been satisfied?

I was reading an article earlier today, by coincidence, about a former Japanese Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama. Commenting on the Nanjing Massacre, Hatoyama said, as I recall, roughly paraphrased, "We will keep apologizing until we are forgiven." 

Forgiveness is the natural (and Christian) endgame for apologies and repentance, and a necessary precondition to full reconciliation. I think questions of 1) how this could be achieved, and 2) how we would know if it happened, are quite reasonable.

Bert Perry's picture

Wally, Tchividjian is a full professor (tenured I believe) with extensive experience prosecuting child sex crimes who not only accurately predicted what would happen with the cases in Moscow, but also is one of the preeminent experts in avoiding the same in the church.  I'd say he was "providing free and accurate advice that Wilson didn't want to hear".  

Now if you want to persist in defending Wilson's slander, feel free, but don't be surprised when people take that into account.

In this case, what Wilson is doing, really, is the exact same thing he seemed to do with Sitler and Wight; he's applying cheap grace, an apology but without meaningful change and introspection.  "Oh, slavery, yes, sorry about that, will try better next time."  It's a modus operandi which responded to the rightful furor over Southern Slavery as it was--plagiarism and a remarkable soft-pedaling of the horrors of the "peculiar institution"--by adding the sources to avoid plagiarism and effectively re-releasing the same work.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

I read the article that Joel linked to and I believe we should all read it to get a broader perspective on the issue.  http://https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/more-than-mere-equality/

One of the things that I thought of as I was reading the 9 Marks article that Joel shared was that some were suggesting that the past sins of others could never be atoned for, but that the best someone with white privilege could do was to vote a certain way. (the author of the article was not suggesting this, he was just pointing out a perspective that some people had).

That got me to wondering if there are a lot of people who tend to be politically conservative who end up reacting with closed ears to this subject simply because they have come to expect that the only thing they will be asked to do is vote or donate in support of a certain political party that they do not support whenever this subject comes up.

Perhaps I have rose colored glasses on, but I wonder what would happen if every time an issue of racial injustice came up, those raising the issue reached out to both political parties and asked them to work together to find a policy solution that would best help those who had been oppressed rather than using it as a campaign rally issue.  Perhaps they have and we just have not been aware of it.

I know this was a rabbit trail off the Wilson article, and I am not defending his approach.  I'm simply pointing out that sometimes this whole subject gets bogged down in politics to the point that the main issues are missed or worse yet are not even heard.

Jim Welch's picture

Wow is me!  To the outward appearance I am a white man, whose family came from Arkansas.  Following Ancestory.com I discovered that ancestors on my mother's side were slave owners!  O, then I find out that I am 2% African!  Wow is me!  I don't know if I am a victim or the abuser.  Help!!!

Btw, I do know that I am forgiven through the finished work of Jesus Christ; and I know that I attempt to live by God's grace with the Spirit's help to follow the teachings of the New Testament.  

But for those who wrestle with making the sins of past generations whole, what New Testament advice can you give to some one like me?  Victim or abuser?  hmmmmm  If I am missing something, I sure would like to make it right!

Paul Henebury's picture

From my reading of the article and of Mohler, Moore (who I do not trust), Platt (ditto), etc., I think that we should be careful about our imbalance.  Yes, Southern has a murky past regarding slavery, and this ought to be a point where its leaders give a clear and unequivocal statement of their views of it - along with a show of institutional contrition like renaming certain (not all) chairs and buildings.  Then they ought to shut up about it and get on with the business of theology.

What has happened in the present climate though are things like MLK50!  This was an absurdity, since for all of his secular greatness, MLK was no Christian and not even a moral man.  It is coming on the heels of THIS sort of unbiblical gesture (with Platt calling on whites to repent of...something) that makes some of us think that there is an unwelcome foot in the evangelical door; and we better get it out. 

Wilson also highlights the issue of money.  Strange how the non-victims of past sins are crying about free tuition to make up for sins that nobody living in the present committed against them.  And we ought to be vigilant about not committing the genetic fallacy just because we don't like Doug Wilson.  

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

WallyMorris's picture

Being a tenured, full professor does not exempt a person from bias. Whether he has/had any bias, I have no way of knowing and neither does anyone in this discussion. All I said is that Wilson is in a position to know more than we do and to automatically assume he is wrong because you don't like him or approve of what he has said/written in the past is unfair to him. Do I agree with everything Wilson writes? Of course not. But he has the courage to state clearly and provocatively what often should be said. And what he said in his article was worth saying. Many people who post on SI criticize Fundamentalists for prejudice, bias, "nit-picking", etc., etc. Perhaps some should look in the mirror.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Bert Perry's picture

Regarding the notion that blacks today are non-victims because only those above age 55 or so actually have vivid memories of legally enforced Jim Crow (in both North and South), we need to remember what that entailed.  Blacks were denied opportunities in education, church, jobs, networking to find jobs through whites-only social clubs, the right to purchase housing in neighborhoods of their choice, and more.

Those children who were born to them, therefore, were in poorer households in neighborhoods where relatively few (if any) of their neighbors were in the skilled professions, where parents very often could hardly read (let alone have a good library for kids to learn), and whose parents and friends did not have the social connections that would get them "in" at certain employers, etc..  They're also victims because the places where they could then afford to live are higher crime.  All of this--and quite a bit more--has lasted quite a bit longer than Jim Crow did.  Parents are, after all, the strongest predictor of how their children will turn out.  

Other things involved?  Sure, but let's face facts; churches in the South aided and abetted Jim Crow and perpetuated this unjust system until quite recently, really.   

And as we look at the victimization we see today, we see the "reparations" we need to give; not cash, but the earnest welcome into our communities, social organizations, and the like--the educational, job, and social opportunities many have been wrongly denied.  (if it could be done with cash, sign me up, but after trillions trying to equalize things doing absolutely no good, I'm guessing that's not the solution)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Bert Perry's picture

Wally, what I'm saying here is that just because someone has a bias (everyone does) does not allow one to call another an "ambulance chaser", which is a perjorative in legal circles more or less corresponding to the Anglo-Saxon words we won't allow here.   For the sake of argument, I can suggest that Wilson knows an incredible amount about this, but still say that it's inappropriate for him to use that term about Tchividjian.  

And for the record, given that Wilson was arguably pretty wrong about Steven Sitler and Jamin Wight, when push comes to shove, I don't think Wilson knows that much.  He rather was reacting to the fact that Boz was saying something he didn't want to hear.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

mmartin's picture

The race issue is a tricky one.

Certainly, it is good to honestly own-up to the past.

But, isn't there something to be said that that the constant talk about slavery & race relations can actually make things worse?

Bert Perry's picture

mmartin wrote:

The race issue is a tricky one.

Certainly, it is good to honestly own-up to the past.

But, isn't there something to be said that that the constant talk about slavery & race relations can actually make things worse?

Constant talk without any effort to deal with the still-lingering effects of historic racism certainly would be worse, that's for sure.  And that's precisely where (thanks Joel) a sober view of the situation is important.  If "our tribe" was complicit in these things--and obviously our ancestors were--and if that discrimination shut out the ancestors of young black people from jobs, schools, churches, social clubs, and job networking opportunities--and obviously it did--we might guess that the current status of many african-americans today derives in part from the actions of our ancestors.  Put in words, if your father was an illiterate sharecropper, your life opportunities are going to be far less than if your father had been educated and become a tradesman, professional, or the like.  (on average, obviously there are exceptions)

More importantly for us, the pattern of past discrimination shows us a present remedy, and quite frankly a wonderful path for ministry--to make sure that our black brothers and sisters have these partnerships with "majority culture" if they want them.  Contrary to Wilson, it's not all about the money--yes, there are some who want just that, but it's not the primary need, or even the majority expectation, as far as I can tell. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Bert wrote:

the pattern of past discrimination shows us a present remedy

I have nothing to do with that. I'm responsible for my own sins. The congregation where I serve has nothing to do with that either; it was founded in 1978 in Olympia, WA and has not committed any sins (in a corporate sense) against any people group. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Paul Henebury's picture

Bert chose to hone in on some of my last paragraph (about reparations) and bypass the first two paragraphs.  Okay, but in my third paragraph I was referring to those (e.g. Kyle J. Howard) who have called for monetary reparations on the basis of SBTS's past involvement with SLAVERY.  Perhaps that wasn't clear? 

Bert's points are well taken for the most part, although what churches are guilty of they must address, not Southern Seminary.  I was speaking about Southern Seminary.  He speaks of "the victimization we see today", and his solution is of giving an "earnest welcome."  Who is being victimized and who should give the welcome that is not giving it?  The government?  The churches?  Whites?  Seminaries?  Society in general?  All the above?  But this is not what I was speaking to with my comment on "non-victims", and I am unclear about who Bert identifies in the present as the offenders. 

Whatever, Kyle Howard is not a victim.        

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Joel Shaffer's picture

I don't know Kyle, although there are a few conferences that we've mutually attended.  But he's a young 20 something who just graduated from SBTS with a emphasis of trauma counseling.  He's not a leader within the conservative black evangelicalism and in my opinion, hasn't really thought out the ramifications and negative unintended consequences of monetary reparations when it comes to dealing with racism that often does more harm than good.    Although the discussion here has led to reparations among Christian institutions, the Atlantic had a great article dealing with reparations for minorities within broader society that could be applied as well.   https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/06/the-impossibility-o...

Paul Henebury's picture

Joel,

The issue here is about whether seminaries like SBTS have anything to apologize for once they have identified what their forebears did.   Although he states a few home truths in the piece I see no constructive ideas in it.  As I have said before, much of the problem is with black culture.  He seems to agree.  But it is a political piece.  How does this relate to the spiritual work of the church?  

 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Joel Shaffer's picture

A question for Paul and others who partially or fully agreed with Wilson, 

Did you read the pushback article from Dr. Joel McDurmon?    Thoughts?   

Joel Shaffer's picture

The issue here is about whether seminaries like SBTS have anything to apologize for once they have identified what their forebears did.   Although he states a few home truths in the piece I see no constructive ideas in it.  As I have said before, much of the problem is with black culture.  He seems to agree.  But it is a political piece.  How does this relate to the spiritual work of the church?  

My point in relating the Atlantic article was to express the complexity of reparations, which are almost impossible to do and could leave to unintended consequences, whether it be as broad as society or narrow to a Christian institution like SBTS.   And Yes I realize we are talking about spiritual work of the church.  As for much of the problem being "Black Culture," there is some truth to this, although when we peel the onion back, often times we see more than meets the eye.  The example the author gives about African American children spending much more time on electronic media can go deeper.  In my experience, the hundreds of urban youth that we rub shoulders with on an annual basis come from fatherless households.  Many of them have fathers who are not able to be in their lives due to over-criminalization/mass incarceration or unjust child support laws that limit the father's involvement (depending on state-to-state) to hold their child accountable so that they can flourish in society.  Of course they need to first own up to the consequences of their sins in these situations, but I've had too many young men that I've discipled who desire to be much more involved in their kids life so that the cycle of fatherlessness can be broken, yet the state often enables mothers to manipulate the system and keep the fathers from being a good father to their kids.   But that's for another thread.    

Paul Henebury's picture

Yes Jim and thanks.  It was well written and I did not disagree a whole lot.  My position has been clearly stated and I do not endorse Wilson.  But I do not throw all of him out either.  My concern (and I fancy it is his too) is that this is part of trend which will take evangelicalism into foreign waters: foreign from its purpose that is.  I had cited MLK50 as an instance of this trend.

This para from the article causes me concern:

"Of course you can’t repent for other people’s sins; but you can acknowledge them, and you can acknowledge the effects of those sins. And when the effects of those sins are social, while you may not be accountable for those sins, you are responsible for some of the effects of them in your society. When you are part of, or especially the leadership of, an institution or body that was complicit in those social sins and effects, that responsibility is greatly enhanced."

If you haven't committed the sin then how can you be responsible for it?  And where does this bus take us?  If the answer is that one owns up to past evils and acknowledges them publicly, good.  But is there any more responsibility other than making sure that this acknowledgment is set in stone?  I think the question of "what else?" is there to do after the sin of others has been confessed openly and the prejudice corrected?  I say, nothing.  Get on with teaching the Word.       

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Paul Henebury wrote:

This para from the article causes me concern:

"Of course you can’t repent for other people’s sins; but you can acknowledge them, and you can acknowledge the effects of those sins. And when the effects of those sins are social, while you may not be accountable for those sins, you are responsible for some of the effects of them in your society. When you are part of, or especially the leadership of, an institution or body that was complicit in those social sins and effects, that responsibility is greatly enhanced."

If you haven't committed the sin then how can you be responsible for it?  And where does this bus take us?  If the answer is that one owns up to past evils and acknowledges them publicly, good.  But is there any more responsibility other than making sure that this acknowledgment is set in stone?  I think the question of "what else?" is there to do after the sin of others has been confessed openly and the prejudice corrected?  I say, nothing.  Get on with teaching the Word.       

After reading McDurmon's article, I had some of the exact same concerns as you do.  I also thought his continual bringing up of the "Lost Cause" was not really relevant to most of us (maybe there are some in Wilson's camp and similar), because most of us, even if we disagree with having responsibility for things we did not do, do not think that slavery wasn't so bad, etc., and we are not using that argumentation or justification in any way.

I think McDurmon didn't really want to answer the question about "what else?" -- he wanted to leave it unspoken, and leave it to the reader to infer, which for me, is getting pretty close to expecting us to come up with some type of actions to make up for the past.  He reinforced it by the way he talked about repentance -- it sure looks like he wants something awfully similar to reparations, but he didn't want to come right out and say it.

To what you said about "what next," I might add that we not only want to be sure the acknowledgement is set in stone, we want to do what we can to not repeat the sins of previous generations.  But otherwise, I agree that we need to move on, rather than continually hammering on it, and get back to the Word.

Dave Barnhart

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