The moral incoherence of ‘The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel’

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Rebecca:

You shared the link to The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel, and I’m not going to lie: It unsettled my sleep. Not because I felt convicted of anything, but because of the sheer moral loopiness on display. This is a document that proclaims to be telling the Gospel truth, literally, but that’s not what it is: It’s anti-liberal, anti-progressive — whatever you want to call it, it’s reactionary and insular.

It starts with this affirmation:

WE AFFIRM that 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.

Now. I don’t agree with every part of that, or even much. But I don’t think that everything that follows in this statement springs from that foundation.

Take, for instance, this:

WE AFFIRM that since he is holy, righteous, and just, God requires those who bear his image to live justly in the world. This includes showing appropriate respect to every person and giving to each one what he or she is due.

So justice! Justice is good! So maybe we should talk about how racism has created enduring injustices in our cou-

We reject any teaching that encourages racial groups to view themselves as privileged oppressors or entitled victims of oppression.

Well, ok, let’s not talk about racial injustice? We shouldn’t talk about how white folks often have unearned privileges and black folks have unearned oppressions because…Jesus? I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say here!

 Though people often can be distinguished by different ethnicities and nationalities, they are ontological equals before God in both creation and redemption. “Race” is not a biblical category, but rather a social construct that often has been used to classify groups of people in terms of inferiority and superiority.

Well, I guess that doesn’t sound so b-

WE AFFIRM that 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.

Certain types of conservatives try to distinguish between race and culture to declare the superiority of their culture without sounding racist about it. If you try to determine where the Venn Diagram divergence between race and culture is, though, you’ll usually have a difficult time. It seems very much that culture might be a “social construct used to classify groups of people in terms of inferiority and superiority,” no?

We affirm that virtually all cultures, including our own, at times contain laws and systems that foster racist attitudes and policies.

That makes sense. I was getting worried!

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.

This is all very confusing.

Let me sum up:

* Justice is important.
* But we don’t want to talk about racial injustice.
* Racism is bad.
* Ethnocentrism is good.
* But again, racism is bad.
* We just shouldn’t talk about that in church.

This is incoherent. And when you add into this one of the statement’s foundational denials – “we deny that the postmodern ideologies derived from intersectionality, radical feminism, and critical race theory are consistent with biblical teaching” – you start to realize that this is less an affirmation of faith and more a rejection of progressivism or any insights that progressive Christians bring to the table.

Add in all the usual sexism you find in these things, and it’s a big ball of frustration.

Michael Gerson writes at the Washington Post today: 

The purpose of “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” is clear enough. It is, as one prominent evangelical leader put it to me, “to stop any kind of real repentance for past social injustice, to make space for those who are indeed ethnonationalists, and to give excuse for those who feel Christians need only ‘preach the gospel’ to save souls and not love their neighbors sacrificially whether they believe as we do or not.”

That about sums it up.

Going to take a nap.

Yours,

Joel

Author: joeldermole

Joel Mathis is a freelance writer who lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife and son. He spent nine years as a syndicated columnist, co-writing the RedBlueAmerica column as the liberal half of a point-counterpoint duo. His honors include awards for best online commentary from the Online News Association and (twice) from the City and Regional Magazine Association.

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