I have written recently about John MacArthur’s complaints about Christians who seek social justice. In short, he believes the pursuit of social justice is a hindrance to the purity of the gospel. You can read all about it here.
Last week, MacArthur and some like minded folks released the “Social Justice and the Gospel” statement. To support that statement, the signers posted an article on their website by Samuel Sey. All at the same time, Sey manages to trivialize the Holocaust, compare ideological opponents to Nazis, and define social justice in a manner that social justice Christians won’t recognize. Here is a sample of the bizarre claims:
Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party were a threat to Jews because social justice is a threat to human rights.
Social justice was the basis for stripping rights away from Jews in the Khmelnytsky Uprising. Social justice was the basis for discrimination against Jews in the Soviet Union. Social justice was the basis for the holocaust in Nazi Germany. Social justice is the basis for South Africa’s initiative to strip property rights from White farmers. Social justice is the basis for stripping a pre-born baby’s right to life.
Bad people have invoked Christianity for evil deeds, should we blame Christianity for their actions?
In fact, actual social justice was not the basis for any of these catastrophes. The impulse to basic fairness that social justice Christians are calling for isn’t the basis for any of these events. If innocent people are being killed, deprived of their rights, or discriminated against, social justice isn’t at work.
Sey then rambles selectively through social justice history. He mentions the Frankfurt School as leading social justice but fails to mention that the Nazis closed the school down. Although he does correctly note that a priest is credited with coining the term “social justice,” Sey doesn’t tell readers that social justice has become a vital part of Catholic practice and witness. One would not be smarter about the subject after reading this piece.
Social Justice Is Awful Until It Isn’t
Most of this article is incoherent. He starts with Hitler, then rambles around awhile on his way to telling us what he favors. However, what he favors in one breath, he disfavors in the next.
When the Bible commands us to “hate evil, love good, and establish justice” (Amos 5:15), it isn’t instructing us to eliminate disparities in society. Instead, it instructs us to identify evil and oppressive laws in society, so that being led by compassion and conviction, we would work to protect human rights for all. In other words, we should be like or support people like William Wilberforce and Francis Grimké, who identified slavery and segregation, respectively, as violations of human rights and worked tirelessly to establish liberty for all.
If we can identify objectively evil and oppressive laws against members in our society today, then we must name these laws. We should not, however, be distracted by perceptions of privilege and disparities. Otherwise, we will sow division into society and division into the church, and thereby threatening work to establish human rights and threatening work to advance the gospel.
First, Sey wants us to be like Wilberforce and Grimke but then he says we should not be distracted by “perceptions of privilege and disparities.” Wilberforce worked to end the slave trade and Grimke helped found the NAACP. Sorry, Mr. Sey, Wilberforce and Grimke weren’t distracted, they were focused; focused on eradicating privilege and disparities in the extreme.
In sum, the bizarre attempt to use Hitler and Stalin as negative examples of social justice fails miserably. One must have passionate hatred for social justice initiatives to bring Hitler and Stalin into the discussion.
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62 thoughts on “Anti-Social Justice Website Says Social Justice Threatens Human Rights, Invokes Hitler and Stalin”
I hadn’t realized how dedicated HItler was to feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the afflicted, caring for widows and orphans – doing for “the least of these.” Obviously, I’ve learned my history incorrectly.
Hitler was advocating for all these people as long as they were German, but he twisted the concept of social justice and by spreading lies, for example by saying that in order to feed the hungry Germans (in reality, affected by the Great Depression) they (Germans) needed to kill as many Jews, Poles, Ukrainians, and Russians. That Germans were supposedly take away from these inferior people and give it back to supposedly godly Germans. In Hitler’s sick mind, all these people were responsible for making Germans poor, naked, widows, and orphans, so according to Hitler, robbing and killing them was social justice.
I do think there are some toxic ideologies connected to current conceptions of social justice, but you can’t confront one crackpot ideology with one that is just as extreme and crazy. Come back to the middle, folks. There are a lot of nice people gathering here.
Short list of signers I recognize by name:
Douglas Wilson (shocker!)
Joseph Farah (ugh)
“If we can identify objectively evil and oppressive laws against members in our society today, then we must name these laws. We should not, however, be distracted by perceptions of privilege and disparities.”
For someone to say that it’s ok to “name” laws which oppress your fellow human beings, as long as you don’t try to change the underlying attitudes and systems that created those laws in the first place is utterly nonsensical. Sounds like that someone is trying to look like they care, while making sure they protect their own power and privilege from any scrutiny or attack.
While I’m definitely biased against the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel., I do think there is something to discuss when it comes to contrasting:
(1) equality of opportunity
(2) equality of outcome
However, I also know that a lot of such discussion has brought more heat than light. This shouldn’t be surprising, as sociology itself is woefully confused about human action. Are humans just social constructs? If so, (2) is reasonable. What truly seems to be the case is that we are hugely formed by that which lies outside ourselves (see Christian Smith’s Moral, Believing Animals: Human Personhood and Culture, spoken of very approvingly by James K. A. Smith), and yet there is plenty that comes from the individual and none other. “The soul who sins shall die.” Where are the intelligent conversations between MacArthur et al and the social justifce folks, which teases apart this very complex matter? Where is the Christian discernment which shows that God is at work gifting us wisdom and knowledge?
One thing, I think, is for sure. If crime statistics can be predicted by zip code, then it’s not purely the fault of the actual criminals that they are criminals. The fact that I’m middle-class is not something for which I can take the vast majority of the credit. C.S. Lewis knew this:
Of course there will be errors in judgment on this matter. People assign more to misfortune than to their own actions when things turn out badly; they assign more to their actions than luck when things turn out well. Surely Christians are called to practice the best discernment possible, here? And yet, it would appear that MacArthur et al are grossly shirking this responsibility, at least going by the statements and essays on statementonsocialjustice.com. If they have good stuff elsewhere, where are the links?
Wow – that’s quite the Lewis quote. Thanks for something to chew on.
These people will go to great lengths to enforce an austere Christian libertarian agenda on the country, and to do that they need the cover of these proclamations.
Ten years ago they treated health insurance reform as creeping Stalinism.
Now, racial reconciliation, minimal rights for gay citizens and a robust approach to social services is treated as “radical” or “secular” ideas that have no place in the church.
They are setting up the church for fascism, oligarchy and widespread misery. The best way to get the Church to vote against Elizabeth Warren in 2020 is to use the next two years to denigrate her social justice stances.
MacArthur is either a tool of the RNC or he’s in on the con.
I don’t think it’s a con, and I don’t think he’s a tool — I just think people like MacArthur are so blinded by their ideology — their right-wing conservative brand of fundamentalist Christianity — that they cannot, will not, allow themselves to grant that anyone on the left can be acting in good faith and aren’t out to destroy everything conservatives stand for.
The term “social justice” has become such a trigger word for right-wingers that it is in MacArthur’s political interest to keep piling on, hence “social justice” becoming the root of all that is going wrong with western civilization today.
How bizarre. Incoherent writing aside, I’m getting the overall sense that they are fashioning a scriptural club to fight against the inconvenient truth that “social justice,” something which their political ideologues have used as a focal point for hate, really is part of the mandate of the Church. Could it be that basic?
It sure looks like it is cut-and-paste from a screed (equally wrong) against socialism or atheism.
I think goes even more basic than that, though that may certainly be a part of it. I think it boils down to an unwillingness to admit passive (or active) complicity in the system of privilege. This is especially difficult for white evangelicals who have prided themselves at being on the forefront of the cultural / moral right side of history since the Prohibition era. To truly listen to and knowledge that white privilege exists is to then force the question of both repentance and change. It’s much easier to label anyone calling for those things agitators or heretics and let the status quo remain and say it is so because of ‘scriptural truth’.
Secondarily there are the hurdles of hyper-Calvinism and rugged American individualism. It’s a nasty soup of “this is the way things are meant to be, but go ahead and pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you want to do anything about it. If you would just “x,y,z” and stop complaining you’d accomplish something. Why should I help?”
I think you are on the right track.
This is quite the Star Trek-themed thread. Anyhow, I don’t think you have the full picture; you write as if MacArthur et al have nothing to contribute which might have a corresponding weakness in the social justice-oriented Christians. For example, from The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel:
I think that’s quite right; do you? Might it be that the social justice-oriented folks have a habit of downplaying this or even presupposing its opposite? I’m not in any way saying that I agree on balance with MacArthur et al; I don’t think I do. Instead, what I’m suggesting is that different groups of Christians have gone to different extremes and many of them really have keyed in on something important. Sadly, by rejecting the other groups, they head into their own error because there are other important aspects about God and how he designed creation to operate.
I think you make some good points here (and +1 for the trek comment lol) – one thing I find disingenuous about a statement like this though: “We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.” is that in the same breath JMac and his co-signers would say this in rejection of things like say, police or economic reform, they would defend Christian bakers and pro-life arguments (and I’m pro/whole life fwiw) or argue against the deregulation of marijuana. In other words, overall the statement merely sets up straw men for the knocking down as it relates to social justice
Sure, but then one can use the statement against MacArthur et al. I find that it is generally easier to use people’s stated standards against them than trying to get them to assent to and be judged by my own standards. This applies even if we both ostensibly are drawing our standards from scripture. Charles Taylor presents a more extended treatment of this strategy in his 1989 essay Explanation and Practical Reason.
One result of such strategy is to show that what one would naively think a statement such as “We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.” means is actually very wrong on many counts. One possibility is that it’s just miscommunication based on ignorance of the relevant material; another is cultural weirdness—such happens all the time. But a more nefarious possibility is that the other side is using words deceptively. What I try to do is work really hard to rule out the ‘deceptively’ option in questions I ask the person espousing the statement, but still leave open the possibility that deception is the most plausible explanation of the available evidence.
A concrete example of deception (perhaps self-deception) is when a group of Christians claims it is “Gospel first, justice and righteousness second”, but which never seems to have much energy left over after Gospel preaching to address the “justice and righteousness” stage. We can suppose that they don’t intend to impose righteousness by force, but instead that the excellent example of Christian justice and righteousness becomes something desired by non-Christians. If in fact there is very little energy left over, I’d say a better description is “Gospel first, justice/righteousness a distant, distant second.” I doubt many would want to admit to this being the state of affairs; surely Isaiah 58 would cause their consciences some sort of trouble? John 14:15? 1 John?
I also deny that laws and regulation possess any such power but I still want laws and regulations to be fair. I don’t want discrimination and I want laws that disallow it. That denial is an adventure in missing the point. Social justice minded people aren’t trying to make the nation Christian by advocating for a just society, they are simply being Christians in an unjust one. MacArthur and Co. regularly try to change the subject and make social justice about a new way to salvation. If someone on the social justice side is suggesting that someone is born again by doing good works socially, they are not articulating an orthodox position.
I can’t find much to disagree with in what you say, given that statementonsocialjustice.com does not critically engage with a single concrete thing said by its target. I would like to know what MacArthur et al think of:
Did Jesus free us from having to do such things?
I don’t think laws against murder possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts. So, I guess we should just throw them out then. The point is, the *purpose* of laws is not to regulate hearts, but behavior. Laws against segregation of public accommodation probably didn’t make anyone less racist, but it sure made lives better for millions of people. That’s the point social justice people make.
I agree with your comment entirely. I would suggest, however, that while laws, such as the ones you referenced, do not have as their primary goal “changing hearts,” they do end up shaping viewpoints. In this case, changing behavior by eliminating segregation in public accomodations allows new generations to be raised in a more just society. This inevitably shapes their views in a positive direction.
This effect is secondary, but I submit that it is an important factor in the ongoing process of “forming a more perfect union.” Likewise, the primary effect is to provide more people with the opportunity to experience “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I believe it also fits in well with the mission of the Church, but certainly it is the responsibility of every American.
The idea that any of this provides Christian salvation or reconciliation to God is being used as a Straw Man.
This ought to be subjected to the empirical evidence; I suspect it is true in some cases and false in others. Let’s take those who thought that just because we got rid of Jim Crow and instituted the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the rest was “just detail”. This turned out to be horribly, horribly wrong. Wise council such as the Moynihan Report (yes its language could have been better) was flagrantly ignored and as a result, that rock solid foundation that family is supposed to be so often wasn’t for blacks—much more frequently than it failed for whites.
My own observation of humanity is that so often, sin is dealt with by sweeping it under the rug. I rarely see such sin go away; instead of seems to fester and finally explode somehow. As I asked @MyPetSlug:disqus, does “the law came in to increase the trespass” apply only to Torah law, or all law? If the heart is oriented in the wrong direction, can law actually fix the issue long-term? Are new generations as disconnected from the old as your logic requires? And what does it say about us if we are [too] willing to throw away old generations?
Can you quote anything from MacArthur et al which suggestions that “any of this provides Christian salvation or reconciliation to God”? Instead, it seems to me that they’re complaining about (i) what is to be described as “a gospel issue”; (ii) what is to be described as “the purpose of the church”. These might not seem all that different from what you wrote, but I suspect a lot of the disagreement is disagreement in the details, in emphasis.
That statement is true of just about any social issue. I never said that anti-segregation laws solved all the problems. However, I grew up right after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and, for me, segregation in public accomodations was not the status quo. This shaped my view of our society and what is acceptable in ways that almost had to be different that those who grew up before. I never saw a “whites only” fountain and couldn’t conceive of that ever being just.
Did people before believe these things? Sure some did, many did. That’s how the Act was passed. But many others grew up in a slightly more just society and took on these views by default. I’m sure there is empirical evidence for this and it can be used to show the extent of such influence, but that it had an influence can’t really be in dispute.
The primary effect of these laws is enough to justify their existence, but I think it is important to recognize that they do help shape the future as well. I can’t really make much sense of your second paragraph. I don’t see all bad behavior in terms of sin (a secular government can’t), I don’t think the theological underpinnings of the Torah are really a consideration in how we decide to deal with US law, and I don’t think there is any disparaging disconnect for one generation to grow up in a more just society than the one before it, and therefore adopt values which may have challenged same. That is part of the legacy one generation bequeaths to another.
How any of this results in “throwing away” old generations escapes me. Those generations are the ones that recognized the need and made the changes. It should be a source of pride, and connection, not a disconnect.
At this point, I want to just ask whether you could possibly be wrong, whether possibly you put too much weight on law and not enough weight on heart-change via grace, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and ultimately, a reorientation from tribalism/selfishness to service of others. I understand the narrative you’re telling and I see its plausibility. I myself an skeptical, but that skepticism is best tested via empirical evidence, via people like you making predictions about what law will accomplish, and then testing those predictions against empirical reality decades and even generations later. Can you point to anyone who is making such predictions? I get that they won’t all come true, but if the goal is to truly pursue what is actually good for others, surely we are willing to let our means be questioned?
It’s not an either/or. For some the latter approach will work. For the remainder, the first approach is appropriate. Whatever the balance is is not relevant to those who these behaviors impact, they still have to go about their day to day lives and doing so with a minimal amount of negative behavior towards them is a massive benefit regardless of the exact reasons why.
Unquestionably we live in a more just society today than we did a century ago. There is no singular reason why, and some methods likely were counter productive along the way, but largely it has worked out positively even though there is a long way yet to go.
I can’t really add to this.
When someone provides no possibility that [s]he is wrong, I grow exceedingly skeptical if not suspicious. The wrongness, by the way, can show up not in the form of “we have made tons of progress”, but instead: “our progress will sustain future progress and has no significant danger of reversing course”. I’m not the only one who is concerned by the way; see my excerpt from Chris Hedges’ Death of the Liberal Class.
Who made the assertion that they cannot be wrong?
Nobody and I didn’t entail that. Please read what I write more carefully.
If nobody did, then why are you bringing it into the discussion?
I did not bring “it” into the discussion. There is a world of difference between:
(1) “I could not possibly be wrong.”
(2) I fail to provide ways to empirically detect that I am wrong.
If you cannot or will not understand the difference between these two things, perhaps we should stop talking to each other.
When someone provides no possibility that [s]he is wrong, I grow exceedingly skeptical if not suspicious. The wrongness, by the way, can show up not in the form of “we have made tons of progress”, but instead: “our progress will sustain future progress and has no significant danger of reversing course”. I’m not the only one who is concerned by the way; see my excerpt from Chris Hedges’ Death of the Liberal Class.
I still think there’s a potential hazard: we regulate behavior and then think we’ve done enough, that we’ve truly made the situation better. In fact, Paul writes that “the law came in to increase the trespass”; is this something special about Torah law, or does it apply to any other law which mandates a behavior which is in contradiction to what is going on in the heart? In no way am I saying we shouldn’t have laws; instead I’m just saying that we should discern, with all the wisdom and knowledge God has given us in his Word and elsewhere, exactly what we are doing with laws such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
I’m laying out the possibility of committing the inverse error I suspect MacArthur et al are making; here are both errors:
(A) Too much focus on social justice lets hearts atrophy and ossify, with sin leaking festering inside while leaking out in ways which are not [sufficiently] punished by the law.
(B) Too much focus on the gospel pretends behavior will automagically rectify itself, such that so much energy is poured into “preaching the gospel” that only the dregs are left over to pursue righteousness and justice.
As always, a life of wisdom is a life of constantly navigating tensions instead of comfortably settling into some particular routine and way of looking at things. It saddens me that MacArthur et al are not obviously admitting this and exploring those tensions. This permits the devil to wreak havoc in the details.
Laws are but one tool with which to build a just and fair society. If your point is that they are far from the only tool, then we agree. But, they are an important one. Maybe even the most important one. If we see an injustice in society, we can pass a law to stop the behavior and relieve the harm caused by it quicker than any other solution.
Of course, sometimes we pass a law and think our work is done. We may stop trying to change hearts and minds. Even though the unjust behavior has stopped, people still *want* to continue it and chafe at that fact that they can’t. However, I don’t think this excuses the opposite, that we don’t pass a law and instead fight the long slow battle of public sentiment, while people are being harmed in the meantime.
I’m not sure the empirical evidence bears out “stop the behavior”, “the most important one”, or “quicker than any other solution”, especially over the long term—after humans have learned to game the system. I’ve talked to one of the signers of the Statement who was a pastor and is back to being a lawyer after essentially being ejected from his church. (For doing things like criticizing “Jesus is my boyfriend” worship songs or claiming that if you promise to adopt a kid who has been living with you for some months and tell the kid you promised that, you don’t get to back out without a really, really good reason.) He says that no judge he knows thinks that family law works. That is, the outworkings of bringing family issues to court so often makes things just terrible. Those who trust too much in law will make themselves constitutionally blind to this possibility.
I’ll give you another reason for my skepticism: Philip K. Howard’s The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America. Take for example OSHA. Howard has seen time after time that the copious laws on the book result in tremendous amounts of money being poured into minor matters when there were major matters which were left unaddressed. This isn’t to say OSHA hasn’t done a tremendous amount of good, but is there a point at which law tries to replace human judgment? Could it be that the reason we had Trump and Clinton as candidates was a national shortage of good human judgment? My own observations in life indicate this is a significant possibility.
Now, law is obviously a good mechanism for synchronizing expectations. For example, I’ve heard that back in the day, various automotive workers’ unions would agree to not enact the contracts with various employers until contracts were set up with all employers, so the switch could be thrown for all simultaneously. This means that nobody got a competitive advantage over the other. Here, the ‘spirit of the law’ is synchronized with the ‘letter of the law’. Now, what happens when those two are misaligned if not anti-aligned?
I’m sorry, but I really object to your second emphasis; first “stop the behavior” and now “that fact that they can’t”. Law isn’t nearly as effective as this. Let’s take corporate law: what really happens with the accumulation of laws is that the big companies have legal/regulation departments which learn how to game the system, while the smaller outfits experience increasing competitive disadvantage. This isn’t to say that there ought to be no regulation, but I see far, far, far too little observation of the empirical evidence & comparison of that to the predictions of what it was claimed the law would do.
One of the huge problems America is facing now is the fact that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 didn’t do nearly as much to stop racism as those who naively trust in law thought. Certain racist behaviors definitely declined, but others rose. And anyone who’s been at the bottom of the social ladder in middle school knows how ingenious humans are at getting around rules and regulations to be awful to their fellow humans.
I kind of agree, although I think it’s odd to talk of “public sentiment” instead of “conforming hearts and minds to Jesus Christ”. Without that very precise thing, I suspect humans will continue to do what they have done since the beginning of time: compete with each other for social acclaim, deny the full extent of bad consequences of their actions, and scapegoat the Other. As long as we think the answer is to lord it over each other, we will only increase sin.
So many things here. Can the system be broken? Sure. Is it the best we have though? Yes. Like I said, it is a tool. In some situations, it is absolutely the best choice to use. In others, it’s not. But, when, for example, millions of people are being denied basic justice, you pass a law and enforce it. You don’t quibble that the courts or whatever are not perfect. Remember, don’t like the perfect be the enemy of the good. Also, you ignore that fact that we should obviously work to improve our legal system too.
Again, that’s my point. It was never supposed to. That’s not it’s purpose, nor could it be for any law. it’s job was to make people’s lives better, to materially remedy an injustice. It did that, by in large. That some people still hold racists views or perhaps hold racists views in reaction to it’s alleged overreach is something that should be fought over in the marketplace of ideas.
Pick a different law. Does the fact that laws against murder don’t make everyone want to stop murdering represent a huge problem for America? Did anyone really think all murder would stop just because we have a law?
This is because I don’t think this is the goal. That might be your goal, which is fine by the way. But to me, the goal is to have a just and fair society regardless. If people do that through Jesus, fine. If they don’t, also fine.
I will say, I don’t think empirical evidence is on your side though. I don’t think you can say that the most Christian countries are the ones that compete the least with each other for social acclaim, don’t deny the full extent of bad consequences of their actions, and don’t scapegoat the Other. If anything, it’s the least religious countries that most match that description. Not that that proves anything. It’s just that I don’t believe everyone “conforming hearts and minds to Jesus” is any kind of panacea.
I’ve argued that one needs a mix of law and heart/mind-change; you keep pressing the law angle. At this point, I suggest you predict what law is going to do in various situations and then see if years down the line, the results are what you predict. My experience is that humans are really good at gaming systems and being awful within the rules. On the other hand, when they are aligned with the spirit of the law, it can work as a wonderful synchronizing system. I don’t think one can get a “just and fair society” with only law or mostly law. Corrupt people will make corrupt laws.
I’ll conclude with an excerpt and an anecdotal experience. First, from someone who dared criticize the Iraq war when most intellectual elites (including the NYT) were supporting it:
Second, I attended conference at Stanford, The New Politics of Church/State Relations. I asked a Stanford law faculty member whether he thought law folk have too much trust in law. He said that while the faculty probably did, the students had a much healthier outlook. I think that’s important food for thought.
Honestly, you seem to be making a point without a distinction. Let’s just remember that this country is not homogenous – there are many different faiths and there are many with no faith. We are a country which operates under rule of law. Many beliefs help tame the “heart” of the believer, but we are still a nation of laws and they are necessary. We are not talking about an either/or scenario – that is a false dichotomy.
The kinds of predictions you suggest will never be possible because there are too many variables in human behavior. We can look back and see that some things worked, others did not, and make corrections from there. If things worked as you suggest, the US would have been a perfect union from the start. Instead, we are ever striving for that.
In the meantime, we are compelled to correct injustice with the tools we have.
How are you not strawmanning my words?
Then how is your position the slightest bit empirical vs. 100% ideological? If I hear you correctly, the empirical evidence cannot possibly prove you wrong. And yes, I’m well aware of that phenomenon because I’ve spent countless hours arguing with atheists about what would constitute empirical evidence for God’s existence and action.
Please explain the logic of this. I have no idea how you got to it, but I shall remain open to my saying being this erroneous. I would prefer that you work from precisely what I’ve said, though—and explicitly.
His response is very clear to me. You seem to be demanding everyone else provide your personal definition of ’empirical evidence’ (ie: must include specific predictions or its wrong, cannot include overall results), while supplying anecdotes as your own proof, and excerpts of books or papers you happen to like (selection and confirmation bias). You also do not seem to understand strawmen or false dichotomies.
Where did I construe an anecdote as proof? IIRC I carefully and explicitly labeled anecdotes as anecdotes, fully realizing what that word entails in discussions.
I’m going to just tap out here. I think we are talking in circles and at the end of adding anything productive to this thread.
He’s just hiding behind John MacArthur’s failed strategy of “My-Ignorance-is-Superior-to-the-Informed-Knowledge-of-Others.” Their navel-gazing sophistry is all they need to keep themselves satisfied in their own little bubble, far from the adult world of rational thought and material reality. Self-worship in action.
If you think I’m a fan of John MacArthur, try reading my responses over at Joel McDurmon’s Response to “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel”. (N.B. I hadn’t heard of Joel McDurmon before the whole Statement thing. My hackles were raised because [i] I’m very interested in theology & power; [ii] a friend of mine has been greatly harmed by Christianity very similar to the Christianity I detect in that statement.)
I’ll let you work this out with yourself however you want, but it’s getting old debating around in circles. Good luck.
And yet we know that the situation for women and minorities has dramatically improved over the past century with the major changes being legal ones. There certainly is plenty of correlative data, and while you are disputing whether its empirical enough for you, you aren’t offering empirical evidence challenging the consensus.
He’s welcome to his opinion of course, but as you state above, where is the empirical evidence? What I know is that women are free to leave abusive marriages, don’t get tossed in asylums and lose their kids, or get saddled with children and no support. Family law certainly has improved the overall picture for many if not most of the previous victims of the lack of such.
Again, empirical evidence please? Since the advent of OSHA, workplace safety has gotten dramatically better. Especially in the most dangerous professions such as mining. One certainly can pick nits with various levels of enforcement, focus or regulation, but these arguments appear to be a baby+bathwater response rather than a reasoned analysis with specific changes suggested.
So focus on closing the loopholes.
Can you link me to which CRA proponents ever claimed it would stop racism? Or where in the actual bill it claimed to be a stop to racism? You are setting up a strawman to knock down. The fact that some people can do things that the law does not address is in no way an argument against the law itself. In fact, it’s an argument in favor of MORE such laws.
Not everyone is a Christian. If the main focus is on religious approaches to societal problems you are handing the problem off to a non-representative group (religious leaders) and essentially hoping that 1) they all agree on how to tackle the problem, something that clearly is not the case, and 2) that they will somehow magically have influence on people who do not follow them.
I actually agree with this. And yet, what is going to happen to SCOTUS? Suppose that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a heart attack tomorrow. How much of the momentum of how we even interpret the law lies with the particular makeup of SCOTUS, and not in the American populace at large? See, I count true progress as not just having an absolute value that is increasing, but derivatives which are positive. What I see in America post-2016 makes me worry about the future. Are you sufficiently unconcerned, in the domains under discussion on this page?
BTW, a way for the derivative to be negative is for a society to be well-below replacement birth rate. I see no guarantee that Europe’s political and cultural values will survive this. I hope I’m wrong for the sake of millions if not billions of humans, but I will not assume such a guarantee.
Probably buried in studies few read and few care about. It is my general understanding that most with political power are able to avoid the nasty he described to me. Unless you really sacrifice your own interests and pursue those of the politically weak, their condition tends to persist if not worsen.
You write as if I’m arguing that we shouldn’t have any family law at all. This isn’t true and in fact grossly distorts my position. What I’m saying is that much more than just law is required, and that family law is a good example of this. Again, if I interpret statementonsocialjustice.com as charitably as I can, there is much more room for grace, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and a heart-orientation change from lording it over others to serving others than is currently admitted in rhetoric and especially in practice.
See the book I mentioned and linked, The Death of Common Sense: How Law Is Suffocating America. To actually comprehensively make my point would require a PhD dissertation, or some sort of crowd-sourced website for defending and critiquing such hypotheses. I actually have plans to try my hand at that sort of thing. Anything less and you can always argue it the other way. Surely you’ve discerned this in your time online?
There is no such thing. Humans will game any system.
I was referring to the shock that our nation experienced that it still has a much bigger problem with racism than many thought.
Could you possibly be wrong that adding law unto law doesn’t work past some point? How would you know that you’re wrong? After all, you could, at any point in the process, say that we need more laws. You can also throw a bone to those who say that heart-change is needed, but with most of your emphasis on “more laws”.
I am aware of that. But I’m not going to assume that without what I described, the situation can look particularly nice. In fact, I’m inclined to believe what Charles Taylor told me at a Stanford conference: secularism works if you’re not suspicious of the Other. If you want empirical evidence which bears that out, see Why Muslim Integration Fails in Christian-Heritage Societies. And what do I observe in America today and the world at large? An increasing suspicion of the Other. Maybe there is a solution other than what I’ve suggested; maybe we can have a nicer world than I imagine with the resources you are bringing to bear. But I’m not going to assume that is possible; it seems you are.
Who is the ‘we’ in that statement? Virtually nobody I’ve ever met in social justice circles believes there is any singular change, or even group of changes that will ‘solve’ the problem, and most recognize that the problem itself morphs and changes with the times, and will require routine adjustments to mitigate.
An example would be those who spurned the Moynihan Report, resulting in its focus on the importance of fostering a healthy black family (over against the brokenness created via slavery and continued via cycles of poverty, among other things) being largely ignored. I recognize that the report is exceedingly politically incorrect by today’s standards, but it also seems to me that it was right in what it worried about. I’m being mentored by a sociologist in his 70s who is very left-leaning and even he acknowledges that Moynihan got a lot right and it is virtually criminal that he was so ignored.
I’m not sure how that makes your point. Spurning the Moynihan Report does not mean they believed we had done enough. It just means they spurned one specific report, and likely had other actions in mind. Your assertion seems to be that since they did not agree with a specific bit of writing you agree with, it means they thought we had ‘done enough’ rather than that they had other ideas they put forward or wanted to put forward.
You are correct, it does not prove my point. I think I’d need a PhD dissertation to prove my point. (If it’s correct, of course!) And my point wouldn’t be that a single law was passed and then nobody did anything else. Instead, it would be that new laws were also passed and other forms of coercion and manipulation were employed, with heart-change being grossly neglected. Remember, the focus of statementonsocialjustice.com, if I’m super-charitable, is that not nearly enough focus is being put on gospel matters: grace, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and a character change toward serving others after the pattern of Jesus Christ rather than lording it over others.
Furthermore, I want to be quite clear that the burden is on MacArthur et al to show a superior method to obtaining increased justice in America to what you and those like you are currently practicing. What concerns me is that you don’t seem to want to admit that maybe you have the emphasis wrong, that you might be focusing too much on coercive measures and not enough on heart-changing measures. One of the things atheists have taught me in my many years arguing with them is to try hard and see how I could be wrong, what empirical evidence would suggest that I’m wrong, and how I can use predictions to protect against post hoc rationalization. That’s what I don’t really see in my discussion with you and others. You can always just end the conversation with, “Well we’re going to do what we’re doing until you show us something better.” I just think it’s more awesome to sometimes test my strategy and expose it to critique. Who knows what you might discover to more effectively help those you are trying to help?
What strategy are you proposing? What evidence do you base it on? What laws would you base it on to ensure it is constitutional? Who would it be focused on helping and how? Can it be implemented in an agnostic, non religious manner?
You are long on criticism but short on answers. And the answers you give seem to have a Christian focus. Policy in a secular nation is not based on individual flavors of faith. We already know the result of no policy, the Jim Crow south was a primary example. We know that policy can change lives for the better, as we have seen since the CRA. What are you proposing, given the limitations of our system?
“heart change” is just a phrase, how does that translate to policy, and how does it help people immediately in the way a law can?
You said “I’m just going to tap out here.”, so I’ll give a brief(!) answer.
I don’t have any sort of comprehensive strategy; in fact I think there’s a tremendous amount that we don’t yet understand. I think there’s a key difference between ‘letter of the law’ and ‘spirit of the law’ which I do not see recognized as very important by pretty much anyone in this thread, nor people “out there” in the world. (I don’t think it’s exclusively a Christian difference?) Maybe I’m not looking in the right places. But rather like John MacArthur et al seem to assume that justice will take are of itself automagically if the gospel is preached, the overall impression I get is that people’s hearts† will automagically align if we add law unto law. I’m exaggerating for clarity: any under-emphasis on heart and over-emphasis on law will harm / fail to maximally help those who need justice. The same goes for an over-emphasis on heart and under-emphasis on law.
The evidence which convinces me of my position is quite varied. I am happy to provide details upon request, but I would first ask any requestor to tell me what you think of my excerpt from Chris Hedges’ Death of the Liberal Class. I’m not treating him as an unquestionable authority, just someone who has walked the halls of power and been rejected by the Establishment for [IMO] potently questioning it.
Nowhere have I said we should cease and desist in law-making. Instead, I’m just concerned that given the state of America and the world, “more of the same” may not be enough. And quite frankly, I’m concerned that almost nobody here sees that as a realistic possibility. Can we imagine what would happen if Ruth Bader Ginsburg were to die of a stroke tomorrow?
† I don’t have a formal definition of ‘heart’, here. To first approximation, I would say “that which allows people to game any system of law they are given”. I would point out that interpretation of law can morph over time and the shift isn’t guaranteed to be in a “good” direction. And I would argue that a lot of badness can accrue slowly, via sad necessities that we really wish weren’t so, but we have to protect our own, first. But there is much more to be said and researched here; I am far from happy with my current understanding.
Butting in to make a point. For those of us who believe in social justice, I don’t see an over-reliance on the law or a focus on law only. While the law is still important (like the Civil Rights Acts, striking down gay marriage prohibitions, etc), much of the focus has turned to reforming the systems and institutions that produce so much inequality, and the norms and customs that have so much implicit bias built into them. In the US, it’s also becoming more obvious that race isn’t our only problem, but also a privileging of one religion over others that can produce unequal outcomes. Neither white people or evangelicals seems over-eager to absorb the message or change their hearts, but it is happening. Maybe the way the gospel is preached could speed things up?
Butting in to make a point. For those of us who believe in social justice, I don’t see an over-reliance on the law or a focus on law only. While the law is still important (like the Civil Rights Acts, striking down gay marriage prohibitions, etc), much of the focus has turned to reforming the systems and institutions that produce so much inequality, and the norms and customs that have so much implicit bias built into them. In the US, it’s also becoming more obvious that race isn’t our only problem, but also a privileging of one religion over others, to the point of putting it above the law, that can produce unequal outcomes. Neither white people or evangelicals seems over-eager to absorb the message or change their hearts, but it is happening. Maybe changing the way the gospel is preached could speed things up?
Just to be clear, I’ve never meant to suggest that it has been “law only”. It’s sometimes helpful to speak as if that’s the case just to make the point clear, but I think I’ve been pretty consistent in allowing that non-coercive, non-manipulative means are in play. I see three big questions:
(1) Could we work more on shaping the “heart”?
(2) Is Chris Hedges on to something in his distrust of law? (specifically: this excerpt)
(3) Is there anything special to the Christian focus on grace, mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and a reorientation from tribalism/selfishness to service of others?
Do you think there is any use in asking such questions?
Who ever thought that was anything like our only problem? Am I really weird in thinking that humans seem to like dominating other humans and that this desire can be accomplished in many, many different ways? Indeed, I’m a bit worried about those who ignore that dynamic and end up playing Whac-A-Mole.
Christians are suffering from complete spiritual blindness
By Michael Gerson
Since the Council of Nicaea, Christians have been prone to issue joint statements designed to draw the boundaries of orthodoxy — and cast their rivals beyond them. Another one, not quite in the same league, was recently issued by a group including John MacArthur, a prominent (and very conservative) evangelical pastor and Bible teacher…
“MacArthur clearly wants to paint the participants — including prominent pastors Tim Keller, Russell Moore, Thabiti Anyabwile and John Piper — as liberals at risk of heresy.”
I don’t know about any heresies, but I do know that those “prominent pastors” are sexist homophobes, so their concept of social justice stops at patriarchy’s door.
Thanks for mentioning the Council of Nicaea. In my opinion that is when Christianity began its move away from scholarly research and understanding of God and into a political organization, fully willing to embed nonsensical and unbiblical ideas the Apostles never believed (the Trinity for instance) in order to gain control and increase growth. The arguments made there and carried forward were the beginnings of the Christian habit of prooftexting to ‘demonstrate’ the scriptural support for whatever is needed to win any given debate in the social, political or spiritual spheres.
I’m not going to agree with anything you wrote, but instead merely point out that Ellen T. Charry studies this matter in her essay “Walking in the Truth: On Knowing God” (But Is It All True?: The Bible and the Question of Truth, 144ff). She finds that the shift from practical → scholarly starts in the 9th century, for reasons of academic respectability and the squashing of heresy. I lament that shift and hope MacArthur et al do as well. I hope they realize that the squashing of heresy with coercive power is a flagrant violation of “We deny that laws or regulations possess any inherent power to change sinful hearts.” (The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel)
There is no evidence the apostles and the earliest church believed in the Nicene Trinity. The apostles probably had a sketchy grasp on Greek and they were part of a religion famous in the ancient Mediterranean world for being strictly monotheistc. The apistles were not Nicene Christians. They believed in Jesus as Lord, but they hadn’t gotten through to the “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father.” That was a couple of centuries in the future.
The lengths people will go to to avoid the truth.
How very bizarre this guy’s (these peoples’) views are!
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