Servants Don’t Take Offense

Potter with clay

A couple years ago, an academic and writer who was researching the role of women in Reformed churches flew in for a day to attend a presbytery meeting in my little part of the Christian world. Her subsequent scathing report generated quite a bit of discussion and controversy, with particular outrage over her revelation that the women’s restroom was temporarily labeled for male use. What kind of church, readers demanded, would care so little about female concerns as to refuse to even give them restroom facilities? The account of the omission was one of the most dramatic parts of her report, with three paragraphs devoted to describing and analyzing the way in which “women’s physical needs were considered unimportant and inconvenient.” It was a damning indictment—and perhaps a tad overstated.

Frankly, the bathroom labeling was thoughtless, creating an uncomfortable situation for any women who had to remove the sign and wait for the bathroom to clear before using it. But in a denomination which does not have female elders, everyone knows there are going to be hardly any women at a presbytery meeting. As someone who has run large events in the past, I have a great deal of sympathy for the harried organizer, worrying the night before about the prospect of long bathroom lines snaking through the foyer of a small church, who hastily tried to solve the problem with the “Men’s Restroom” sign which was shortly to become a thing of infamy. (Had the same organizer been running a women’s conference, I expect we’d have seen a “Women’s Restroom” sign on the men’s room.) Was it a less-than-ideal solution? Yes. Was it a significant sign of underlying sexism on the part of everyone associated with the meeting? Perhaps… not?

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Sin Cannot Justify Sin: A Response to the Charlotte Riots

Charlotte riots over Keith Lamont Scott

I am hesitant to write a critical word about the Charlotte protesters against a backdrop of centuries of sin against people who look like them by people who look like me. I am hesitant to mention a speck in the eye of black America when white America has not yet fully dislodged the log from our own. If I was merely writing as a white person addressing black people, I would be silent. But our Savior tells us, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28), so I write as a Christian addressing Christians.

We have all seen the now-familiar images of broken windows, looted stores, and angry rioters these last few days. They come with a sad sense of familiarity after Ferguson and Baltimore and the other protests-turned-riots of the past couple years. But I am actually less troubled by the violence and property damage of a few—often agitators arriving from out of town, causing damage that affects the black community more than anyone else—than by the permissive attitude taken by many others, both black and white.

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Denying Sin and Rejecting Facts Left Us with Baskets of Deplorables

That's racist

A week ago, Hillary Clinton set political alarm bells ringing by consigning “half of Trump’s supporters” to “the basket of deplorables” in what was either a monumental gaffe or a brilliant strategic coup, depending on who you ask. (Time will doubtless tell, but he hasn’t yet.) Less discussed was the second half of her quote, as she elaborated on the nature of the “deplorables”: “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic…”

Personally, I liked the quote. It was neither gracious nor accurate, but the imagery is perfect. For many on the political left, these assorted phobias and ugly -isms function exactly as Clinton described—a basket into which any unwelcome sentiments can be cast and ignored. Worried about the potential of unlimited immigration to change Western culture? You’re a xenophobe. See some value in the definition of marriage which has been assumed for thousands of years? You’re homophobic. When “That’s racist” is a joke in high schools across the country, it may be a sign that your favorite condemnatory labels have been a bit overused.

Which is a pity, because racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and Islamophobia really do exist; are even, in fact, bigger problems than many on the right might like to admit. But instead of serving a useful purpose by calling out true wrongs, these labels and those who use them often just muddy the waters. The reason our phobias and isms are so imprecise and overused is because we have jettisoned the two most necessary criteria for moral condemnation: the categories of sin and objective fact.

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‘Black Lives Matter’ Undermines Its Own Cause

Black Lives Matter march

It is challenging to critique a movement which has little organization apart from a decentralized band of activists who have gathered beneath a slogan; especially when that slogan itself is true, important, and timely. But—precisely because “black lives matter” is true, important, and timely—we have an obligation to critically consider the movement which has adopted that mantra as its name. Black Lives Matter began as a hashtag following the 2013 Trayvon Martin shooting, and since then the movement has drawn significant media attention, featured in countless protests, and become an influential player in American politics. It has also adopted troubling tactics which undermine its own worthy cause.

With BLM back in the headlines this week, I think it is important to point out several reasons for concern about the movement and its tactics. I do so cautiously and, I hope, humbly; very aware that I observe and speak from the outside. However, it is possible to observe Black Lives Matter and evaluate the movement’s actions in light of universal standards of justice, just as Black Lives Matter asks us to evaluate the experience of African-Americans according to universal standards of justice. If I can judge the shooting of Philando Castile, I can also judge the protests it provoked.

With that in mind, here are three reasons why Black Lives Matter should be rejected or reformed by those who believe black lives matter.

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