The Gospel, Social Justice, and T4G

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TylerR's picture

Excellent article from Bro. Schaal.

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

TylerR's picture

Here is another excellent article from James White, entitled "The Racialist Lens Disrupts True Christian Unity: A Response to Thabiti Anyabwile:"

Concurrently with the MLK50 Conference, primarily (but not solely) put on by TGC, Pastor Anyabwile posted an article on his blog on the TGC website titled, “We Await Repentance for Assassinating Dr. King” (April 4, 2018) (found here: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/thabiti-anyabwile/await-repenta...).  In the article, Thabiti reminded us that MLK was “assassinated, murdered, violently killed,” and that he did not just “die.”  As he wrote, “The Civil Rights leaders standing on the balcony on that dark day pointed not only to Ray and the area where the shot was fired, but figuratively pointed to the entire country in its sinister hatred and racism.” 

He then made the case that the country as a whole is guilty, for he writes, “Until and unless there is repentance of this animus and murderous hatred, the country will remain imprisoned to a seared conscience.”  He then adds “the Church” to the list, though he does not chart the path as to exactly how all of this can be processed consistently (since, of course, many in the country were only tangentially aware of, or concerned about, MLK and related matters).  But then he added this short paragraph, which garnered a great deal of attention:

My white neighbors and Christian brethren can start by at least saying their parents and grandparents and this country are complicit in murdering a man who only preached love and justice.

...

We hear much about “identity politics” today.  Christianity beat the movement to that concept by many centuries.  Our identity is not ours to choose, however.  Our identity is not determined by our genetics or our economic status.  No, the Christian message about identity is an easy one:  Christ is all and in all.  He is our identity.  His sacrifice redeems us, His intercession assures us, and as we live in recognition of His centrality in all things, the human-derived divisions that plague all of mankind are put aside.  We come to one table, as one people, and the only lens we need for that is the one that shows us the Lord of glory, Jesus. 

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks, David, for posting this excellent article.  Well said.

 

G. N. Barkman

JD Miller's picture

The article mentions "cotton pickin".  It amazes me how quickly ill intentions are assumed.  My dad used to use the phrase "cotton pickin" quite a bit.  Often he used it in reference to some inanimate object that was giving him trouble.  We were on the farm, did not raise any cotton, but I knew that a cotton picker was kind of like a combine, so I assumed it was the sort of equipment that would break down a lot and cause some aggravation.  I was not thinking of people of any color when I heard that phrase- I wasn't thinking of people at all.  If I thought of any color it was John Deere green.  We did not have the internet back then, so I did not have a way to look up the origins of the saying either.  Thus, this is the sort of thing I thought of:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AkyWY9WCow

I recognize now that I was not woke in this area, but does that mean I had been sinful for not knowing that "cotten pickin" meant something else?  Does that mean that my kids have to repent of the fact that their grandpa used that phrase a lot?  Of course the answer is in Ezekiel:

Eze 18:19 "Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity?' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness, and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live.
 20 "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
 (NASB)

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Growing up in Texas, I never viewed the term “cotton-picking” as a racist term.  Black people hand-picked cotton; White people hand-picked cotton; mainly before my time.  My dad did a little cotton picking. 

Calling someone a cotton-picker was just a country expression like “good ole boy,” “pea-picker,” “red-neck.”

But, you can make anything racist if you want.  Some are way too sensitive about race. 

Some have even proclaimed a decoration of cotton bolls is racist. 

“The word ‘racism’ is like ketchup. It can be put on practically anything - and demanding evidence makes you a ‘racist.’”  -Thomas Sowell

David R. Brumbelow

Andrew K's picture

JD Miller wrote:

The article mentions "cotton pickin".  It amazes me how quickly ill intentions are assumed.  My dad used to use the phrase "cotton pickin" quite a bit.  Often he used it in reference to some inanimate object that was giving him trouble.  We were on the farm, did not raise any cotton, but I knew that a cotton picker was kind of like a combine, so I assumed it was the sort of equipment that would break down a lot and cause some aggravation.  I was not thinking of people of any color when I heard that phrase- I wasn't thinking of people at all.  If I thought of any color it was John Deere green.  We did not have the internet back then, so I did not have a way to look up the origins of the saying either.  Thus, this is the sort of thing I thought of:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AkyWY9WCow

I recognize now that I was not woke in this area, but does that mean I had been sinful for not knowing that "cotten pickin" meant something else?  Does that mean that my kids have to repent of the fact that their grandpa used that phrase a lot?  Of course the answer is in Ezekiel:

Eze 18:19 "Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity?' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness, and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live.
 20 "The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.
 (NASB)

You're using the old communication model, JD. As are most of us here.

You see, there's been a switch and we haven't really been up to speed on it: analogous to "reader-response" literary criticism, your intentions are no longer the sole arbiter of meaning over your communications. That is, if offense is taken by someone higher up on the chain of grievance than you (which I hate to tell you, but as a white, male, evangelical, that's absolutely everyone), then you are guilty, regardless of your intent.

The only thing left to do is to apologize for your insensitivity. But even that's not really enough for genuine "redemption" anymore. You have to throw yourself into Leftist causes. 

Darrell Post's picture

Reading this thread and seeing Tyler's picture reminded me how several of the original Looney Tunes / Merrie Melodies cartoons released by Warner Brothers have been banned for offensive racial content. Maybe that is the right call for some of those, I don't know because I haven't seen them--they are banned. But even the ones not banned, but were released on DVD were issued with warnings about offensive content and unfair racial or ethnic stereotypes.

Of course they are most concerned about the portrayal of Mexicans in the Speedy Gonzales episodes, and the way African Americans or Native Americans are sometimes portrayed. It was apparent that the concern was from the top down, rather than an uprising from those who were supposed to be offended. For instance, this from wiki: "In 1999, all Speedy Gonzales cartoons were removed from airing on Cartoon Network because of their alleged stereotyping of Mexicans. Many Hispanics protested that they were not offended, and fondly remembered Speedy Gonzales cartoons as a representation of their youth and nation's individuality; these shorts were made available for broadcast again in 2002."

Also from wiki, here is the statement from Warner Brothers printed on each DVD set: "The cartoons you are about to see are products of their time. They may depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in the U.S society. These depictions were wrong then and they are wrong today. While the following does not represent the Warner Bros. view of today's society, these cartoons are being presented as they were originally created, because to do otherwise would be the same as claiming that these prejudices never existed."

However, I could not find a place where the offense police were concerned about the way Yosemite Sam caricatures loud, angry white males who feel entitled to dominate everything and everyone around them.

Andrew K's picture

Darrell Post wrote:

However, I could not find a place where the offense police were concerned about the way Yosemite Sam caricatures loud, angry white males who feel entitled to dominate everything and everyone around them.

He's a redhead ("ginger"): the last present-day genetic minority relatively safe to stereotype for laughs in the media.

TylerR's picture

I'm Riff-Raff Sam, the riffiest riff that ever riffed a raft! I also just remembered my avatar is Yosemite Sam, too ...

Tyler Robbins is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA, where he's an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Jim's picture

TylerR wrote:

I'm Riff-Raff Sam, the riffiest riff that ever riffed a raft! I also just remembered my avatar is Yosemite Sam, too ...

Learned something new! Here I thought your avatar was ... a squashed ladybug!

JD Miller's picture

Andrew wrote:

You're using the old communication model, JD. As are most of us here.

You see, there's been a switch and we haven't really been up to speed on it: analogous to "reader-response" literary criticism, your intentions are no longer the sole arbiter of meaning over your communications. That is, if offense is taken by someone higher up on the chain of grievance than you (which I hate to tell you, but as a white, male, evangelical, that's absolutely everyone), then you are guilty, regardless of your intent.

The only thing left to do is to apologize for your insensitivity. But even that's not really enough for genuine "redemption" anymore. You have to throw yourself into Leftist causes. 

I think that this was a bit harsh, however I must admit that I have had similar feelings even though I decided it may be hurtful to express them in such blunt terms.  My wife does not understand completely how I feel because she is not a white male.  Having said that, we as white males must also realize that this gives us a taste of what a black man or women in general may be feeling when they hear derogatory statements about them. 

The point I keep reiterating is that we as Christians should not accept ungodly statements about anyone regardless of whether they are privileged or not.  What frustrates me is when I get pushback from some Christians who justify attacking certain groups of people.  What makes it difficult is that the pushback comes from a wide range- some want to justify attacking minorities, some want to justify attacking women, some want to justify attacking white men, etc etc.  We need to remember to love our neighbor and love God regardless of where they are on the social scale.

Ron Bean's picture

I was watching a cable food/restaurant show today where the Popeye's TV commercial was criticized as stereo-typical and 2 white men were criticized for having a restaurant that specialized in fried chicken.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

Bert Perry's picture

....I can see why the descendants of those who picked the vast majority of cotton prior to mechanical pickers might assume that the phrase "cotton-picking" or word "cotton-picker" might refer to them, and take some exception as they remember the economic and political conditions that compelled their ancestors to develop the aching backs and gnarled hands developed by that task.   To refer to an african-american as such is more or less to say their rightful place is back there, and the reason people object now, but didn't back then, is because the rhetoric used back then was far and away more nasty.  So for today, using these phrases is a somewhat more polite rendition of this drug store display

And sure, there were poor whites who picked cotton as well, but I'm guessing if you called one of their descendants a "cotton-picker", you would be effectively calling them "poor white trash".  I would urge refraining. 

There are certainly places where political correctness has gotten out of hand, but I'm thinking that the furor over cotton-picking is not among them.  

Interesting fact; cotton combines are made by Case-New Holland in Benson, MN.  Proximity to the Great Northern Line for easy shipment worldwide trumps proximity to the South for them.  I did phone interviews with them a few years back. 

Andrew K's picture

JD Miller wrote:

Andrew wrote:

You're using the old communication model, JD. As are most of us here.

You see, there's been a switch and we haven't really been up to speed on it: analogous to "reader-response" literary criticism, your intentions are no longer the sole arbiter of meaning over your communications. That is, if offense is taken by someone higher up on the chain of grievance than you (which I hate to tell you, but as a white, male, evangelical, that's absolutely everyone), then you are guilty, regardless of your intent.

The only thing left to do is to apologize for your insensitivity. But even that's not really enough for genuine "redemption" anymore. You have to throw yourself into Leftist causes. 

I think that this was a bit harsh, however I must admit that I have had similar feelings even though I decided it may be hurtful to express them in such blunt terms.  My wife does not understand completely how I feel because she is not a white male.  Having said that, we as white males must also realize that this gives us a taste of what a black man or women in general may be feeling when they hear derogatory statements about them. 

The point I keep reiterating is that we as Christians should not accept ungodly statements about anyone regardless of whether they are privileged or not.  What frustrates me is when I get pushback from some Christians who justify attacking certain groups of people.  What makes it difficult is that the pushback comes from a wide range- some want to justify attacking minorities, some want to justify attacking women, some want to justify attacking white men, etc etc.  We need to remember to love our neighbor and love God regardless of where they are on the social scale.

No, I don't think it's harsh at all. You are putting to narrow an application on a general principal I was drawing out about interpretation of public statements.

Let's a look at the Lorde/Whitney Houston debacle: (https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/06/entertainment/lorde-whitney-houston-joke/...) Do you really think Lorde was making a joke about Whitney Houston dying in the bathtub? Does anyone care? The fact is it was said and interpreted as such, and no one really cares what she meant. There is a racial subtext to this story as well, to the observant.

There are plenty more examples like this.

I'm not trying to be bitter or make any accusations toward anyone. Knowingly offending someone is to be avoided as disciples of Christ, and we could all use a good deal more care in our choice of words. Here, however, I'm just describing what is. If you think I'm being inaccurate and/or reactive, frankly you're not reading as many news stories as I am.

Andrew K's picture

Here's another relevant story, one that you have almost certainly seen:  https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/17/health/implicit-bias-philadelphia-starbuc...

From the article: "Implicit bias is the automatic associations people have in their minds about groups of people, including stereotypes. It forms automatically and unintentionally, but results in attitudes, behaviors or actions that are prejudiced for or against a person or a group of people" (emphasis mine).

Read that again for emphasis, and note the implications of the bolded word are clear: Your intentions don't matter. All that matters is your location within the network of power dynamics that make up our society and on which side of the discourse polarity you fall in response.

 

Bert Perry's picture

Can we really say that our intent was ever the sole decider of whether what we say is appropriate?  Historically, we've had a legal doctrine of "fightin' words" for hundreds of years, and the person saying them did not get to say "well, that's not how I intended it" and then continue pressing charges against the guy who gave him a shiner for saying it.  Now the list of those fightin' words has changed, but let's not pretend that "intent" alone is ever how we could expect to be understood.   A good example is the response to the person who made fun of Whitney Houston's death; one can quibble over whether it was just idiocy or malice, but the message was clear.  That person thought it was funny to make fun of Houston's death, and that's tacky in most people's eyes.

Andrew K's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Can we really say that our intent was ever the sole decider of whether what we say is appropriate?  Historically, we've had a legal doctrine of "fightin' words" for hundreds of years, and the person saying them did not get to say "well, that's not how I intended it" and then continue pressing charges against the guy who gave him a shiner for saying it.  Now the list of those fightin' words has changed, but let's not pretend that "intent" alone is ever how we could expect to be understood.   A good example is the response to the person who made fun of Whitney Houston's death; one can quibble over whether it was just idiocy or malice, but the message was clear.  That person thought it was funny to make fun of Houston's death, and that's tacky in most people's eyes.

No, we can't. And I'm pretending nothing of the kind. 

Interpretation for meaning is and has always been a dynamic process that flows between sender, text, and recipient. Focus on any one of these for exclusive meaning and you're off-base. After all, the author could lie about his/her intentions--or be mistaken.

Goodwill, however, has historically assumed we extend to the author a certain measure of charity and "authority" over his/her text/words. We recognized the special place in interpretation the author's commentary has, even if not infallibly so. After all, we all know how it feels to be misinterpreted, and we don't like it. Besides, "intention" is fundamental to meaning in a unique way, since without intention, there can be no language.

Now, however, intention and authorship has almost become incidental. What matters is how a piece can be seized and leveraged for political advantage or to raise our own profile or simply for the pleasure of outrage. Has this always been true, to a degree? Yes. Is it more "true" now? Yes.

Personally, I believe Lorde was innocent in her comment. It was just an unfelicitous and thoughtless coincidence. I wouldn't even call it idiocy. These sorts of things happen in life. Far more often than we might think.

Bert Perry's picture

My kids do things like that sometimes, and my response is generally "use your head for something besides a hat rack."  I would agree with you that such things don't render a person persona non grata forever, and further would agree that too many people would do exactly that.  

But that said, I think there's a lot to be said for understanding one's blind spots and learning from them.  Just saw a great quote from James Michener (the author); If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay home.  Or, put in terms of our ministries, if we reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the cultural memories and avoid the people, you won't be reaching those people for Christ. 

JD Miller's picture

Here is another article that just came into my email this morning on race:

https://churchleaders.com/news/323741-david-platt-asks-why-is-t4g-so-white.html?utm_source=outreach-cl-daily-nl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=text-link&utm_campaign=cl-daily-nl&maropost_id=&mpweb=256-6604079-713009561

In this article, he actually shows some reasons why the racial divide in the church is as wide as it is.  We are not going to solve the debate on who is right and wrong any time soon.  (I personally think there is truth to both extremes and error in both), but the reality is that race often affects how people view the world and it is insightful to understand that those differences do exist.  If it were only color that separated us, then the easy solution would be to get over our color differences.  The divide is more than skin deep though.  It has to do with ideas more than color.  I have long contended that denominational differences and the separation that they develop can provide unity in individual congregations (we Baptists do not have to debate with our Presbyterian brethren over timing of Baptism every week, but we can still respect one another and fellowship on a limited basis).  The race issue is much more personal however.  Still, I am wondering if both sides of the race debate would be better served to recognize that we have a different perspective, but still be welcoming of each other even when we disagree and even when that disagreement leads to less unity than we would hope for.

Just for clarification, I am not suggesting we ignore our differences for unity's sake.  What i am suggesting is that we continue to listen to each other without the expectation that the others will embrace all of our positions.  Further each side should understand this, but be willing to listen and learn with the hope of drawing closer even if we do not erase all the divide.