Thousands of Christians are making the Biblical case, albeit statement, to support racism, sexism, and homophobia.
And they are doing it in a way that seems kind, just, and Jesusie.
It is the Statement on Social Justice and The Gospel (Depending on my mood, I refer to it as “The Statement” or “Da Statement”).
Intentions aside, it reads is as if a friend said, “I’m not homophobic,” and afterwards, winked at me.
It reads like some dude sitting in a Barcalounger said, “Both men and women are valuable in God. We just have different roles,” before barking at his wife, “Now no go make me a sammich.”
This statement, which consists of fourteen affirmations and denials about the role of social justice in Christianity, linguistically dances through a fog of attempting to sound like a good person, while advocating for systemic oppression of different groups of people.
Leaders in the U.S. church fashioned a contemporary makeover to the “let’s deal with their hearts and not get political” talk that once kept masses Black folks enslaved and good White Christians freely praising their own construction of Jesus.
Oh, and there are scriptures to support their statement (coughs, “Just like slavery”).
Just as White Christians benefited from systemic racism for hundreds of years, they still benefit from it today. Currently, they have People of Color allies in their supposed cause for Christ.
A bunch of church leaders got the ball rolling and now thousands of people, including trolls, have signed this attempt to reassert institutional control.
According to the authors, they seek to:
…clarify certain key Christian doctrines and ethical principles prescribed in God’s Word. Clarity on these issues will fortify believers and churches to withstand an onslaught of dangerous and false teachings that threaten the gospel, misrepresent Scripture, and lead people away from the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
This introduction begins a long circuitous and hazy path over the river and through the woods, way down yonder in the Chattahoochee, climbing every mountain, venturing through the candy cane forest in order to call social justice the devil.
Behold one of the vaguest statements of clarity I have read in a while. Lord knows, I can be vague.
It’s almost as vague as a politician caught in a scandal stating, “If the alleged incident actually transpired, I do not recall any knowledge of participation.”
In this post, I share my initial responses to select parts of the fourteen affirmations and denials.
Affirm: …the Bible is God’s Word, breathed out by him. It is inerrant, infallible, and the final authority for determining what is true (what we must believe) and what is right (how we must live). All truth claims and ethical standards must be tested by God’s final Word, which is Scripture alone.
A. “God breathed” is subjective. Did God literally cough some holy air and a book came out? If so, God is like the ultimate magician, coughing up colorful scarves tied together that has a book fastened to the end of the lengthy chord. “God breathed” does not remove the human influence in the writing and assembling of the Bible.
B. The Bible is a culturally constructed and mediated text. The Bible was not constructed through the use of automatic writing.
This does not make the Bible less useful.
C. Does testing “truth claims and ethical standards” by God’s final word include child sacrifice via Abraham or genocide after conquering another nation? If a church leader chooses to kill people he perceives as false prophets, like Elijah, are we good, bruh?
I’m tossing out some ethical standards to be tested.
D. All truth is not found in the Bible. Behold, I show you a mystery…
Deny: …that Christian belief, character, or conduct can be dictated by any other authority, and we deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching. We further deny that competency to teach on any biblical issue comes from any qualification for spiritual people other than clear understanding and simple communication of what is revealed in Scripture.
A. The authors deny no other authority can dictate Christian belief and character, and yet they ignore that how they have positioned themselves as the authority. They ignore their own social and cultural influences shaping their interpretation of the Bible.
B. They are going down into the depths of rainforest on this one. What they are trying to say is: Those who are against social justice are more aligned with the Bible.
C. There are plenty of authorities who can dictate Christian belief, character, and conduct.
For example, masses of people who do not identify as Christian would not condone racial injustice and would challenge this some pseudo-theological reasoning to ignore it.
D. As for, “clear understanding and simple communication of what is revealed in the Scripture,”
I think the extra syllables in the word “intersectionality” pushed folks over the edge. “Clarity of understanding and simple communication” mask the writers’ discomfort with diverse interpretations of the Bible and expressions of Christian faith.
II. Imago Dei
A. And now the contradictions begin. This heading says it all.
Didn’t the authors state in the previous section that they wanted “simple communication?”
What is simple about “Imago Dei?”
Is the next statement going to be in Pig Latin? I’m asking for a friend.
How many Khadijah’s, Joe’s, Ming’s, Tyrone’s, and Jennifer’s, everyday folks without a theology degree, walk around in these streets talking about “Imago Dei?” Most people do not use this terminology in their simple communication about their faith.
Maybe they wanted to one-up “intersectionality.”
Contrary to their statement about scripture, the authors come across as uninvested in simple communication.
Affirm: …that God created every person equally in his own image. As divine image-bearers, all people have inestimable value and dignity before God and deserve honor, respect and protection…
A. If we are equally created in “his” image, does this make me a man of equal proportions?
B. I agree that we have priceless value. Yet, I wonder what kinds of “protections” the signers think all people deserve. They seem to ignore the abuse of power that impacts different people. Is this one of those “all men are created equal” statements, where “all men” meant White men?
Deny: …God-given roles, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, religion, sex or physical condition or any other property of a person either negates or contributes to that individual’s worth as an image-bearer of God.
A. Whelp, here we are again with “God-given roles.” Although the writers state that these roles do not negate or contribute to an individual’s worth, wait for it… wait for it…
Affirm: …We affirm that societies must establish laws to correct injustices that have been imposed through cultural prejudice.
A. What about unjust laws? Systemic inequities do no simply occur from injustices through cultural prejudice.
Laws and policies that address systemic inequities, particularly through overt and covert discrimination help to achieve a more just world. Now that colorblind racism has given way to reverse-racism arguments, it is imperative to understand the different working of racism in addition to prejudice.
Deny: …that standards of justice that are merely socially constructed can be imposed with the same authority as those that are derived from Scripture. We further deny that Christians can live justly in the world under any principles other than the biblical standard of righteousness. Relativism, socially-constructed standards of truth or morality, and notions of virtue and vice that are constantly in flux cannot result in authentic justice.
A. Why do the authors previously affirm the need for laws to correct injustices, and yet they state that socially constructed justice cannot be imposed with the same authority as Scripture?
The Bible shows evidence of the socially constructed laws and justice. It supports the use of using our own brain and working together to solve do justice.
There was no book that dropped down from the sky to govern the tribes of Israel.
The ten commandments, for example, did not handle every dispute.
Moses and appointed elders were used to help make sense of being just.
Solomon and all his wisdom did not consult the book of Hebrews to govern his kingdom.
B. Bible is not the only text to author justice.
Christians can only live justly under the principles other than a biblical standard of righteousness.
If we are going to be a stickler and use the Bible as a literal indicator for justice, the Bible, then, would suggest that countries engage in ethnic cleansing.
Today, if nations socially construct a law against ethnic cleansing, then they have proven that people can live justly without using the scriptures.
C. Relativism can seem scary. I do not believe every standard of truth and morality are relative.
However, there are notions of virtue and vice that are relative. Jesus challenged this written in stone approach to truth and morality when he healed on a sabbath day.
Those who dealt in absolutes wanted to peg Jesus as sinning on the sabbath day. However, he challenged the self-righteous use of the letter of the law to model the spirit of it.
IV. God’s Law
Affirm: …the two great commandments…
Deny: …that any obligation that does not arise from God’s commandments can be legitimately imposed on Christians as a prescription for righteous living…
A. Here is the get out of racism, sexism, and homophobia jail card. If something is not explicitly found in the Bible, it does not render the concepts or teachings useless for righteous living.
Affirm: …All human relationships, systems, and institutions have been affected by sin.
Deny: …Although families, groups, and nations can sin collectively, and cultures can be predisposed to particular sins, subsequent generations share the collective guilt of their ancestors only if they approve and embrace (or attempt to justify) those sins. Before God each person must repent and confess his or her own sins in order to receive forgiveness.
A. In other words, the authors have been triggered by all the talk of “White privilege.” Because ethnic groups removed/minimized their ethnic identities to create the system of race( and continue to operate from these spaces to maintain unequal power relations), then it is important to recognize the system of race as a fallen system, as well as the connection we have to it.
In other words, White people do not get a “I didn’t own slaves” get out of jail and get to heaven free card from this statement.
B. Herein lies the challenge with White Christians dealing with the concept of White privilege. Jesus and the gospel did not save particular White folks from becoming upset about how they still live and deal with a racial legacy within and outside of the church building. These individuals, like their leaders, want to ignore its existence and deny any responsibility to do anything different. Proven with this statement, they have church leaders across race to encourage their lack of self-examination and action in these areas.
C. If “all human relationships, systems, and institutions have been affected by sin,” then it would be a worthwhile exercise to look at how the church institution carries out these sinful practices of homophobia, sexism, and racism even in their friendlier versions.
Crafting statements about equality carries little weight if church leaders refuse to look at how the fallen system benefits and privileges certain groups than others.
Affirm: …the gospel is the divinely-revealed message concerning the person and work of Jesus Christ—especially his virgin birth, righteous life, substitutionary sacrifice, atoning death, and bodily resurrection…
A. What gospel did Jesus and disciples preach before the crucifixion and resurrection? If Jesus and his disciples preached the gospel before Jesus’ death, then the gospel seems to be more than the virgin birth, righteous life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Deny: … implications and applications of the gospel, such as the obligation to live justly in the world, though legitimate and important in their own right, are not definitional components of the gospel.
How is Jesus’ righteous life part of his work, but living justly are not components of the gospel? In other words, the authors suggest that righteousness is important, but all that social justice stuff makes people uncomfortable. Therefore, the leave out Jesus’ righteous life in these instances.
In other words, you can be a good bigot and a Christian. As long as you got King Jesus, you don’t need anything else.
Affirm: …in God’s eyes there is no difference in spiritual value or worth among those who are in Christ…
A. There is no spiritual value to those who are in Christ. What about the value of those who are social justicie types who are not “in Christ?”
Deny: …that ethnicity excludes anyone from understanding the gospel, nor does anyone’s ethnic or cultural heritage mitigate or remove the duty to repent and believe.A. Colonize much? No one has a duty to repent and believe. There are no universal mandates by God obligating people to repent and believe.
Affirm: …the primary role of the church is to worship God through the preaching of his word, teaching sound doctrine, observing baptism and the Lord’s Supper, refuting those who contradict, equipping the saints, and evangelizing the lost. We affirm that when the primacy of the gospel is maintained that this often has a positive effect on the culture in which various societal ills are mollified…
A. When did the role of the church become “refuting those who contradict.” After the day of Pentecost, I suppose the early church dedicated their lives to pointing out contradictions.
I suppose I am doing the work of the church, then, because I am refuting this statement of contradictions.
B. Does this refuting gift extend to fashion police duties?
Asking for a friend of a friend.
C. How did this anti-social justice gospel work out during slavery, again?
It was used to justify slavery. It was used to keep enslaved people subservient to their oppressors.
And the church’s role was to deal with the hearts of people not get involved int politics and social issues.
I believe God can transform our lives. Also, I recognize that the Whitewashed fake gospel that helped to enslave people, keep Jim Crow intact, and create a colorblind racist society has had a detrimental impact in the world.
Deny: …political or social activism should be viewed as integral components of the gospel or primary to the mission of the church. Though believers can and should utilize all lawful means that God has providentially established to have some effect on the laws of a society… We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.
A. Again, this logic was used when slavery was legal, functioning, and benefitting many White Christians.
B. Laws and regulations cannot change hearts. Yet, they help set social parameters to encourage/discourage behaviors within a society. Doing heart work is not an excuse to ignore how individuals keep institutions like the church engaging in inequitable practices.
A. I gather that the authors forgot about the aforementioned two great commandments
Affirm: …the accusation of heresy should be reserved for those departures from Christian truth that destroy the weight-bearing doctrines of the redemptive core of Scripture… accusations of heresy should be accompanied with clear evidence of such destructive beliefs.
A. Now that we have established that I am equal parts man, let me mansplain this one. The authors really meant to say, “Release the Christian Krakens! Troll social justice heretics! Troll away with scriptures, of course.”
B. No time to look at good kind Christians who assume they do not need to examine how they are complicit in maintaining an inequitable society. Must point out heretics to please God.
C. I am considering identifying “friendly bigots,” and using the scripture, “Jesus wept,” to support it.
Pray for me.
D. I suppose the accusers will not include scriptures about the accuser of the brethren (Hint, hint, hint).
Deny: …that the charge of heresy can be legitimately brought against every failure to achieve perfect conformity to all that is implied in sincere faith in the gospel.
A. Well, how kind, but the authors have already released the Christian Kraken with little parameters on where to draw the line.
X. Sexuality and Marriage
Affirm: …curse of sin results in sinful, disordered affections that manifest in some people as same-sex attraction…We further affirm that God’s design for marriage is that one woman and one man…
A. I used to believe this prominent teaching, but my perspectives have expanded. People can marry whoever they want to marry. If the church’s role isn’t to be political, as the authors proclaim, then why are they not speaking out against Christians using government to force this theological perspective on all people? Instead of calling things we don’t understand a curse, perhaps we can benefit from exploring more theological perspectives. This same sanctifying power, that the writers speak mention, is calling for people to stop their disordered social injustice statements and lusts for power over the church.
Deny: … human sexuality is a socially constructed concept. We also deny that one’s sex can be fluid. We reject “gay Christian” as a legitimate biblical category…
A. They can deny all day, but science and people’s experiences reveal otherwise. Among billions of people, everyone will not be the same or fit into our paradigms.
B. The authors do not explicitly deny sexist Christian, racist Christian, or homophobic Christian. Things that cause me to wonder.
Affirm: … In marriage the husband is to lead, love, and safeguard his wife and the wife is to respect and be submissive to her husband in all things lawful. In the church, qualified men alone are to lead as pastors/elders/bishops and preach to and teach the whole congregation…
A. What about the part in the Bible about husbands likewise submitting to the wives?
B. This is textbook sexism in the church. The authors chose to ignore the patriarchal crafting of the scriptures (again, Bible as a culturally constructed text) that minimized and erased the role of women in the church. Furthermore, this affirmation ignores the women who played prominent roles in ministry throughout the Bible.
There are plenty of theological resources available. However, like racism and homophobia, there is more a concerted effort to maintain control.
Deny: …the God-ordained differences in men’s and women’s roles disparage the inherent spiritual worth or value of one over the other, nor do those differences in any way inhibit either men or women from flourishing for the glory of God.
A. The wait for it… wait for it…is over. If a woman senses a call to teach or preach to the whole congregation, this “stay in your lane, woman” affirmation is a direct attempt to inhibit her from flourishing for God’s glory.
Affirm: …all sinful actions and their results (including evils perpetrated between and upon ethnic groups by others) are to be confessed as sinful, repented of, and repudiated.
A. Racism is not only individual sins acted on another person. It consists of institutional efforts, like using religious influence to promote a statement that helps maintains the invisible workings of racist structures.
Deny: …Christians should segregate themselves into racial groups or regard racial identity above, or even equal to, their identity in Christ. We deny that any divisions between people groups (from an unstated attitude of superiority to an overt spirit of resentment) have any legitimate place in the fellowship of the redeemed. We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression… we deny that a person’s feelings of offense or oppression necessarily prove that someone else is guilty of sinful behaviors, oppression, or prejudice.
A. Inherently problematic in this statement is the failed understand in and application of a Eurocentric and U.S. White race-based interpretation of scripture.
B. The authors reinforce the one of the invisible workings of racism, where the minority groups carry the burden of proof to prove covert discrimination.
C. They are using racist colorblind language in their use of “privileged oppressors.” Unless one is in a formal White supremacist organization, White racial socialization into racial privilege, for example, is not an overt teaching in all things “privileged oppressor.” That is, most White people are not giving their children manuals entitled, “How to Be a Privileged Oppressor in 10 Easy Steps.” The language oozes with passive aggressiveness, displaying how the authors resist examining the ways they have been racially socialized into accepting the invisible workings of White privilege. Furthermore, the authors use of “entitled victims,” points to rhetoric that commonly used in predominantly White politically conservative circles, not the Bible. I believe there is room to critique entitlement across racial and class groups, as well as challenge racism without enabling a victim mentality, but this statement does not move in this direction.
D. The authors appear to give lip-service and show little desire to investigate systemic discriminatory and inequitable practices across institutions, especially the church. Doing so would require them to actually shift the ways many unquestioningly follow dominant racial norms.
Affirm: …some cultures operate on assumptions that are inherently better than those of other cultures because of the biblical truths that inform those worldviews that have produced these distinct assumptions…
A. What cultures are the writers referring to?
B. Which cultures are inherently better? What happened to equal worth?
C. This statement can read as code for the historically (and sometimes, presently) promoted belief that White middle class Christian “values” were superior. But that would sound racist, wouldn’t it?
Deny: …that individuals and sub-groups in any culture are unable, by God’s grace, to rise above whatever moral defects or spiritual deficiencies have been engendered or encouraged by their respective cultures.
A. Now, I am really curious: Which cultural groups who do not have any moral defects or spiritual deficiencies?
Affirm: …virtually all cultures, including our own, at times contain laws and systems that foster racist attitudes and policies.
A. The authors felt the need to state that all people are racist. All cultures did not create systems to foster racist attitudes and policies.
I don’t recall reading U.S. church history about how the Black church was formed because they refused to join White Christians, who begged them to be unified in worship. Although I agree that different racial and ethnic groups have a role to play in how racism is perpetuated or dismantled, I believe a statement calling for massive repentance in how the U.S. White church has been instrumental in institutional racism is in order. This statement seems more concerned about a deeper need to make everyone racist than moving toward real progress.
Deny: … only those in positions of power are capable of racism, or that individuals of any particular ethnic groups are incapable of racism. We deny that systemic racism is in any way compatible with the core principles of historic evangelical convictions. We deny that the Bible can be legitimately used to foster or justify partiality, prejudice, or contempt toward other ethnicities. We deny that the contemporary evangelical movement has any deliberate agenda to elevate one ethnic group and subjugate another. And we emphatically deny that lectures on social issues (or activism aimed at reshaping the wider culture) are as vital to the life and health of the church as the preaching of the gospel and the exposition of Scripture. Historically, such things tend to become distractions that inevitably lead to departures from the gospel.
A. Where is the corresponding plan to massively integrate the U.S. church? Where is the plan to intentionally increase diverse leadership in religious institutions?
Just call this statement, “In Defense of White Evangelicalism.”
B. In letter, this statement acknowledges the existence of racism, while, in spirit, reinforcing the dominant racial rhetoric.
C. Historically teachings on social issues might have led to departures from the gospel because after reading statements like these, what kind of good news is it to tell someone to be quiet about social issues in order to keep members in the church.
I can’t blame someone for choosing to depart from such wickedness.
Church leaders might want to look at their callousness and unquestioned White supremacist-laden gospel presented in raceless packaging because that can deter people from Christ. Thus, raising social issues and activism are not driving people away. It might be the hard heartedness of gatekeepers who let their fear of losing power and control drive their choices.
If this new wave of clergy is “deeply concerned about the values borrowed from secular culture,” then they need to look at their borrowed beliefs from the invisible White racial power structure throughout society.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail was a response to a public statemen by eight Alabama clergymen, who called for “constructive and realistic approaches to racial problems.”
They considered the nonviolent protests to be too radical. Sounds familiar?
…Just as we formerly pointed out that “hatred and violence have no sanction in our religious and political traditions,” we also point out that such actions as incite to hatred and violence, however technically peaceful those actions may be, have not contributed to the resolution of our local problems. We do not believe that these days of new hope are days when extreme measures are justified in Birmingham…
You see, some things have not changed.
Clergy writing public statements to communicate how non-racist they are, while simultaneously reaffirm racism, is nothing new.
Ask Jim Crow.