DC
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[280] You Ain’t Black

Friday morning Joe Biden, said to a black radio host that African-Americans, who find difficulty deciding whether to vote for him, “ain’t black.”  Now if this were just another of his silly verbal blunders, we could confine this statement to “C’mon man” Biden and move along.

But it is far more disturbing than that.

African-Americans, from Clarence Thomas (who was a militant activist in his college days) to Candace Owens of Fox News, are regularly harassed by liberals (often white) for not joining the black voting herd and voting Democratic.

It is insulting, demeaning, and worse, not called out.  Since JFK, the African-American vote has gone Democratic at every level–president, senator, congress, and governor.  No one is questioning that.  But when a huge slice of a national demographic is then thought to be obligated to vote Democrat, not be free to consider alternatives, or branded as ignorant or naïve in doing so, we have a problem.

It is more than reasonable that some African-Americans might look at the performance of the Democratic party–particularly in the cities–and come to the conclusion that they have been had by what might be termed latter day colonizers.  That they have become colonists of partisan politicians who come into their communities at election time, attend some church services, hold public events, tell the locals how much they care about them, and then leave the colonists to eat their promises rather than provide jobs, opportunity, quality education, and personal safety—genuine change.

A party has no right to try to do an electorate’s thinking for them, but that is exactly what these paternalistic liberals have been doing.  They are communicating the notion that their colonists should vote their ticket.  And dare any think for themselves and question the colonizers’ tired public-aid, dependency-perpetuating agenda, well, they will get the Uncle Tom label, and be exiled from their own people. DC

 

 

[279] Why Identity?

Joe Biden has already stated he will select a woman for Vice President.  And while we are it—preferably a woman of color.  He didn’t mention qualification, political views, character, or anything else.  Stacey Abrams and Kamala Harris meet the “woman of color” criterion.  In the case of Abrams, we have someone whose highest governmental office has been the Alabama state congress.  Harris is a very junior senator, up from being the California Attorney General.  Neither have jaw-dropping resumes.  Yet given Biden’s rickety status, there is a strong likelihood that whomever will be his running mate will become President should Biden cop a win in the fall.  The foregoing is identity politics in its rawest form.

All of this makes sense when we consider the basis of identity politics, something Mary Eberstadt wrote about in her book, Primal Scream: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics.  In the case of women, a part of her thesis is that the sexual revolution contributed to the crumbling of the family, and that it “has reduced the number of men offering affection and companionship of a non-sexual nature—fewer [men to be] counted on to push back against men treating [women] badly.” In short, absent a strong family anchor, people feel the need to congeal in special interest groups, built on similar experiences, looking to these alliances for protection and affirmation.

It does make sense.  Once we pull the God and family identity cornerstones out from the under the individual, the person becomes more prone to look to special interest groups for psychological grounding.

There is a challenge here for the church and the Christian college.  It is to “become a place for those who find themselves alone in the world,” according to Hannah Anderson in Christianity Today (2/19/2020). This means our Christian institutions need to be transformed into relationship centers, because relationships–more than structures and organizations–are not only the priority for Gen X and Gen Z, it is through relationships that we discover who we are.  DC.

[278] Vision

The church, and its associated Christian colleges, have a long history of being the caboose on the controversial issues train.  They had their heads in the sand with respect to the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements.  Long after the government and the secular world engaged these matters, they started making changes.  Too many Christian organizations had to be dragged kicking and screaming toward embracing racial and cultural diversity, and myriad bras had been burned before they engaged gender issues.

Why is that?

Because it seems too many Christian institutions cling tightly to the status quo, resisting change much out of fear–imagining if they ignore challenging issues, they will go away. Let me be clear here.  This is not a manifesto advocating radical action and change in Christian institutions whenever they see an issue on the horizon.  They could very well choose not to change.  But they need to do so, not out of being reactionary, but out of Christian conviction.

Look at future issues in the church and the college: polyamory, ongoing LGBTQ issues, co-habitation, student revolts, cyber crises, taking a stance on political issues—they are but a few elements of the new reality.

Christian institutions are awash in study groups, committees, and task forces.  Many of these are irrelevant.  Why not have one that is visionary; one that enables churches and colleges to meet the future head-on, rather than react to it after all the avoidance alternatives have been exhausted? Christian institutions need to be salt and light in a dark world. They need to be on the watch tower, providing vision and direction.  Not trampled under the wheels of an ever-changing secular culture. DC

 

 

[278] Who Knows?

Blacks know whites better than whites know blacks.

Women know men better than men know women.

Poor people know rich people better than rich people know poor people.

Conservatives know liberals better than liberals know conservatives.

Christians know non-believers better than non-believers know Christians.

The reason is simple.  Those in the majority (by number or power) can ignore those in the majority.  Those in the minority need to know the majority to survive. DC

 

[277] Customized God

One of the most pernicious threats to Christianity is what I call a “customized God.”  I am talking about the increasingly-common practice of making God into our image of him rather than aligning ourselves with the God of scriptures.  In short, like a tailored suit, we customize God to fit our perceptions of truth.

Though not the focus here, customizing God is a natural result of a growing postmodernism—the notion that truth is different for each individual.  This form of postmodernism is evident everywhere.  I remember the story of Jane Fonda.  After encountering biblical Christianity, she began identifying herself as a Christian.  Now, not so much.  Over time she apparently picked and chose those elements of the faith with which she felt comfortable, rejected the rest, and now no longer proclaims an allegiance to the biblical Christ. Perhaps more alarming, however, is that this thinking is very evident in Christian communities, and especially Christian colleges where the demographic most given to postmodern notions is dominant. We regularly hear statements that begin with, “I don’t believe in a God who…”  Third rail issues like divorce, homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, and on and on, are not prayerfully studied in light of scripture, but are decided on the basis of individual (and often uninformed) perceptions of morality.

When individual perceptions become the basis of our understanding of God and discipleship, his ways are no longer higher than ours.  He is formed in our image, not we in his.  When we do that, we are on our way to being our own god, the very enticement the serpent used to initiate the Fall.  DC

 

[277] Peter Berger

The celebrated sociologist, Peter Berger, died not long ago at 88.  He was an outlier—a self-described “incurable Lutheran” sociologist who loved the study of religion.  Sociology, you see, is a naturalistic discipline.  In its feverish effort to establish itself as a science, it has long rejected all conceptions of reality that are not supported empirically.  In short, if you cannot scientifically support a point of view, it is either (a) false, or (b) irrelevant.  It deals in what are called social facts.  And that is about all the discipline has been able to assemble—a blizzard of social facts in search of a theory.  Unlike the elemental chart in chemistry, and the multiplication tables in mathematics, sociology has no grand theory, no real paradigm. It has, arguably, three competing major theories: Structure-Functionalism, Conflict, and Symbolic Interaction.  About all the discipline seems to agree upon is that there is no room for a transcendent deity

 

Berger’s The Social Construction of Reality (1966) was recognized by the International Sociological Association as one of the 20th Century’s top five publications in the field. It put him in the forefront of the discipline.  In The Sacred Canopy (1967) he stated that religion helped humans make sense of their reality. For a while, Berger saw religion receding in importance as secularization advanced.  Eventually he rejected this “secularization hypothesis” as he witnessed the resurgence of religion in the form of global evangelism and Christian scholarship in the US.

But he went further.  He not only influenced Christian scholars—Os Guinness, Richard Mouw, James Davison Hunter, and Michael Lindsay among them—he engaged them.  When invited by Gordon College, Berger went to the Boston area institution for a couple of years, interacting with faculty and students.

This is exciting stuff.  A genuine faith and learning dialogue with a heavyweight in a discipline.  Christian colleges need to do more of this, particularly with high-profile academic figures who are open to faith-and-learning dialogue.  They may not be evangelical but they can stimulate our thinking as Christian scholars.  They are out there.  Peter Berger was.  DC

 

[276] Art & Worldview

Don McLean, he of “American Pie” immortality, recently stated that [today’s] “music doesn’t mean anything. The music reflects the spiritual nature of the society. We have a kind of a nihilistic society now.  No one believes in anything, no one likes anything, no one has any respect for anything much. The music shows that.”

Though this is a rather broadside attack, McLean is correct on two fronts.  First, music (and art in general) reflects the spiritual nature of a society.  It gives us an insight into a society’s worldview.  Second, we live in a society that is heavily nihilistic.

The descent into a nihilistic worldview is not hard to trace.  A nation once bound by Judeo-Christian thinking and values slowly becomes secularized.  God is increasingly and systematically trimmed from the public consciousness.  He is removed from our schools, courtrooms, public displays, and attitude toward the sanctity of all stages of human life.  His very public mention elicits objections based on a false rendering of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

Without God there is a society without meaning—the essence of nihilism.  It becomes one that regards empirical science (and not even that in every instance) as the sole source of truth.  There is no certain purpose, no real direction, and can only be driven by the pursuit of pleasure and the absence of pain rather than any loftier objective.

In such a nihilistic society there is no metaphysical truth.  Each person becomes her own god, determining what is truth for herself.  Philosophers call that postmodernism, and art reflects that worldview.  DC

[276] Gay Compromise

My researcher, Steve Launer, directed my attention to an interesting initiative by the United Methodist Church (UMC).  Unable to reach any consensus on LGBTQ issues, the denomination proposed that the church be split into two factions, both underneath the larger UMC umbrella.  It would cut a $25MM check for conservatives breaking off to form a new denomination

It is rather like MLB, with the American League using a designated hitter and the National not.

Though less than ideal, the measure is at least practical, ending the elephant-in-the-living-room tension on this issue while maintaining overall denominational unity.  A word of caution, however.  What if this is only the first of many future divisive issues?  You can only split so many times before the brick of cheese is in shreds.  Though the decision may not be Solomonic, it does allow Methodist believers to move forward as their Christian conscience directs. DC

[275] Friendly World

In my youth there was a popular song entitled, “Friendly World.”  It was a harmless little ditty that included such syrupy sentiments as:

“In this friendly, friendly world with each night so full of dreams

Why should any heart be afraid?

The world is such a wonderful place to wander through…”

It is hard to see any lyrics like this making into the Top 40 in our cynical times, but that is not the point of this blog, nor is it about any Democrat or Republican difference.  The issue is that a “friendly world” connotes a view of human nature.  That it is basically good.  That evil and wrongdoing is the exception.  In short, in dealing with people, good rather than evil is the default position.

The Good Default position is still very prominent today, especially among liberals, and it is a very dangerous one, particularly in international relations.  It is the notion that the leaders of other countries are basically well-meaning people who need only be convinced rationally of the logic of a (US) position on some critical issue to come around and see it our way. This is too often a falsely trusting position, one that creates unnecessary vulnerability.

Perhaps worse, those who oppose this thinking are commonly branded as racist, xenophobic, nationalistic, etc.  If only it were that simple.

We live in a dangerous world—one of good and evil.  Calvinists see human nature as entirely corrupt—totally depraved—with all good being the result of God’s work in us.  The Catholic view sees our nature as “deprived,” containing the propensity for both good and evil.  In any case, humans—even the best of them—have selfish, fallen natures.  The worst have evil motives, and international dialogue needs to be carried on in the awareness of that context.  DC

 

[275] Relevance II

In a recent blog I critiqued the effort of mainline Protestant churches to become relevant by liberalizing their stances on hot-button issues.  All if this begs the question: How does the church, of for that matter, the Christian college become relevant?  By aligning itself to the community it serves.  Rather than recklessly chucking time-honored doctrines and policies, it needs to become a vibrant member of its geographical community.  It begins by “exegeting” a community.  Who (demographically) lives there?  What are their income levels?  Where are the jobs?  What is the quality of education?  What other churches are there, and what are they doing?

Once exegeted, the next steps become obvious.  First, communicating the gospel in a way that its neighbors can understand.  Second, constructing ministries that address troubling issues.  In other words, being relevant in carrying out the two Great Commandments.

This goes for the Christian college as well.  Grand Canyon University was built in a low-income area.  One of its missions has been to employ neighborhood people in as many jobs as possible.  Other similarly located Christian colleges have embraced the urbanity of their community by involving their students in difference-making services to their geographic neighbors.  Rather than flight, they chose to be salt and light.

Think tanks and task forces have their place.  They do.  But relevance does not come through revisionist thinking.  It comes through healthy relationships.  DC

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