The private consensus is unraveling. #TPCIU

I coined the term ‘the private consensus’ in late 2013 to describe the implicit agreement that the best practice for an organization is to keep governance in-house and private without external public interference. It was based on my doctoral work on Cantonese Protestants and their engagements with secular civl societies, but the urgency of coining the term came out of a moment of frustration.

I first used the term in the wake of the Asian American open letter to the evangelical church, a public event that has garnered over 900 signatures to decry continued performances of orientalizing tropes toward Asian Americans in evangelical circles. Having commented in the press about the events that led up to this open letter — Pastor Rick Warren’s orientalizing Red Guard photo on his Facebook page, the Exponential church planting conference’s orientalizing Karate Kid skit — I began to observe how not everyone was able to see that the real problem was that public acts of orientalization were being treated as private encounters that should be discussed privately behind closed doors.

That’s why I wrote my post on the private consensus.

Since then, I’ve broadened out the concept to much of American religion as a case study. While some people think it’s mostly about American evangelicals (such as in my posts about Sovereign Grace Ministries and Mars Hill Church), I’ve made hints that American Catholics have their own version of the private consensus. I’ve even taken the show on the road in my ‘big BC politics primer,’ sussing out a sort of Canadian version of it. I’m also interested in Asia-Pacific formulations of the consensus, especially with democratic movements in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the rest of Greater China.

But the big idea is that new publics have arisen to contest the private consensus, demanding public accountability and engaging in public deliberation about private organizations because they are of public interest.

That’s what I’ve realized that the bulk of this blog is about. Join me as I work this out.

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