A Christian Scholar's Concerns on Social Justice, Crucial Race Principle, Marxism, and Biblical Ethics The Change

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In the weeks after George Floyd's death, I followed the news with increasing grief and concern about the problems that the United States is facing in terms of race and racism.

I wasn't sure how to react when I scrolled through social media and saw increasingly polarized rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle – except to listen to the voices of injured black friends and neighbors and to pray for justice.

I tried to apply the biblical principle of "slow speaking" (James 1:19), but I was recently sentenced to join a thread of (inter) national conversation that takes place among those who share my faith in Jesus Christ and want to support truth and justice without compromising principles that are peculiar to our beliefs – principles they fear could be secretly replaced by rhetoric from other, incompatible frames of thought.

I am aware of two framework conditions, of which I have heard more and more, from my own field: critical race theory and Marxism. Since I have some specialist knowledge in these areas, I would like to give the conversation some thoughts and hopefully explanations.

I will first give some certificates, not to ask for awards, but to indicate why I would like to address these areas of cultural conversation in particular. I have two English degrees (B.A. and M.A.) from a Christian university and a Ph.D. in literature and criticism from a state university.

In my field, Marxism is one of the most studied and influential perspectives, and the critical race theory is also a significant force and gaining momentum. As a result, I have studied these theories extensively.

However, what gives me an unusual perspective in my field is the fact that my primary research interest – and the subject of my dissertation – is 20th century Russian literature. My studies have convinced me that the sufferings and deaths of millions not only correlate with the Marxist-Leninist agenda, but are largely caused by it, and I am therefore deeply against Marxism as a framework.

I hope that those who are patient enough to read these notes will exempt me as a closet Marxist who covers a worldly agenda with a veneer of Bible verse.

Still, I believe that some of the reactions to the protests after George Floyd's death in particular and the Black Lives Matter movement in general are due to the fact that important nuances were not recognized in the conversation.

I will deal with what I believe to be a problematic line of reasoning from race Christian sources:

Argument # 1: Like every sin, racism arises in the human heart. So the solution to racism is that people's hearts change. Systemic racism, on the other hand, is a Marxist idea.

Answer: The first sentence is true. If you believe in original sin (Genesis 3, Romans 5), you have to admit that every sin comes from the human heart. Sin can be aggravated by circumstances, but circumstances do not cause sin. The conclusion that the solution to racism is that people's hearts change is true, but incomplete.

When people are born in sin and people build a society, that society is structured so that all sins that control the hearts of those who build them are strengthened. Even if the hearts of many people change a few generations later, these structures could maintain the problems associated with the "original sins" of this society.

For this reason – and I believe this is also an important distinction – it is possible to recognize that many individual police officers may not be racist and still believe that changes need to be made in the police forces to address injustices.

What these changes could be – changes in training, changes in criteria, areas to be monitored more often, etc. – is an important conversation, but it does not mean condemning all police officers, many of whom are undoubtedly saddened by the terrible actions other officers, like the murderer of George Floyd. The problem can be built into structures and (some) individual hearts.

This is how the above arguments differ from Marxism:

Marxism assumes that socio-economic forces create the problem and not that they maintain the problem. A true Marxist does not believe that individuals have an essential self, apart from the historical contexts in which they develop.

As an atheistic philosophy, Marxism does not allow belief in a soul, and therefore people are only the products of the world in which they live (referred to as the "superstructure" of social norms, historical forces, religious ideas, etc.). .

The way to change people is to change society, and for those who follow the most advanced version of Marxism, to dismantle and create from scratch (this is what Lenin tried in Russia and Mao Tsetung in Russia China). I know people who stick to the most extreme version of this philosophy.

If you (like me) believe that sin like racism comes from the human heart and only manifests in society, you can recognize the above project as fundamentally utopian. It won't work because every society you build from scratch still has problems (maybe new ones, maybe the same) because you haven't fixed the cause of the problems (the human heart).

Only one person can wipe out sin from the world, and I pray that this person comes with increasing urgency these days.

To reject the claim that "structural fixation will fix everything" does not mean that we should reject the idea of ​​being good administrators of the society in which we live. The fact that we will never be able to eradicate sin (this side of the resurrection) does not mean that we should sit back and give it a free hand.

Those of my fellow believers who are against abortion are already realizing that sin and its effects can be addressed on both an individual and a social level. If you meet with a desperate woman outside a clinic and convince her not to end her baby's life, this will be addressed on an individual level.

However, many who contact potential patients outside of clinics also advocate legal protection for unborn and supportive clinics (such as our local Blue Ridge Women's Center), which provide desperate women with other options, resources, advice, and support. Other systemic changes could include better guarantees of parental leave, stronger incentives for fatherly engagement or financial support, and funding for adoptive and social services.

Addressing the problem of abortion at a systemic level does not mean giving in to Marxism unless we believe it is the only complete and permanent solution.

I firmly believe that we must admit that the history of racism in the United States (slavery, Jim Crow, etc.) has created problems that need to be addressed at the heart level AND at the structural level.

Argument No. 2: Critical racial theory is a Marxist framework and therefore contradicts the gospel.

Answer: Critical race theory is indeed deeply influenced by Marxism. As a result, I acknowledge that as a Christian scholar, I will not agree to all of the principles. However – and remember that this came from someone who wrote a dissertation on how Russian poets dealt with Marxist-Leninist oppression – Marx was not wrong in absolutely everything. Very few thinkers (probably because they are all created in God's image) are wrong in everything.

Here are two statements in which I, as a Christian scholar, actually agree with Marx – while vehemently rejecting his philosophy as a whole:

1) Power exists and people sometimes use it to oppress others.

Reading the Old Testament will make these truths abundantly clear (Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, the list goes on). And everyday experience makes these truths very clear. Just ask anyone whose boss fired him / her for no good reason. Even Marx’s evidence for the above truths was legitimate. During the industrial revolution, factory workers had little legal protection, worked too long in unsafe environments, and received little benefits and low wages.

2) The oppressed suffer, and their suffering is often unjust.

I actually believe that as a Christian I have a much better foundation to support the above statement than Marx. When people are just gears in the wheel of history, it's hard to explain why someone should care if they suffer. The fact that most of the Marxists I know are deeply compassionate is, in my view, evidence of their humanity (created in God's image), not their philosophy.

Because I believe that people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1); the god whom I worship repeatedly warned his followers against oppressing the poor, widows, foreigners, etc. (cf. Deuteronomy 15: 7 and countless other passages); and Jesus reached out for those who despised society (women, Samaritans, etc.); I can confidently argue that my belief is fully in line with the fight against oppression in the society in which I live.

In this way, I do not accept an alternative gospel, but only live in a way that is in line with the gospel that I have accepted since childhood.

What some now call "social justice" – to ensure that our laws and institutions do not make it easier for the powerful to suppress marginalized groups – often refers to good, old-fashioned biblical justice.

This can mean that those who have more should be given structural incentives to share with those who have less. Ruth was able to pick up the grain behind Boaz & Schnitter because he was following the biblical mandate that they should not go back and pick up what they had dropped – that was reserved for the poor and immigrants. He could have argued that everything had been his since he planted it, but he was ready to share.

It would have been Marx’s solution to ask him to give up every piece of grain from his field in order to distribute it evenly across the city, but to ask him to leave a little bit behind was God’s solution (Lev 23:22).

How exactly the principle of protecting the poor should be implemented in legislation and cultural practices today is a separate question – one that I will not go into here. There are already some incentives (e.g. tax breaks for charitable donations). I would just like to point out that Christians who express their concern about the inequality between "belongings" should not be referred to by other Christians as Marxists based on this criterion alone.

And if the term "social justice" is sometimes co-opted by Marxists, rejecting the concept robs Christians of the opportunity to become part of the discussion about its definition and application. It is currently a fluid concept, and using the term in a way that confirms biblical principles of justice can help shape the way in which cultural conversation develops.

If you withdraw from the conversation, you have to forego the opportunity to have an important, positive influence.

Argument # 3: The Black Lives Matter movement is Marxist and supports the LGBTQ community's attempts to criminalize traditional biblical beliefs about sexuality.

Answer: The official Black Lives Matter movement, launched by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, is indeed based on a Marxist foundation and deeply embedded in the LGBTQ agenda. I have completed an entire cultural science doctoral course on the Black Lives Matter movement, so I am very aware of these connections.

However, since the course in question also included an investigation of Twitter campaigns and hashtags (yes, people study Twitter in science these days), I also realized that most people who use the hashtag #blacklivesmatter have no connection to the actual movement .

The hashtag itself speaks a truth, and people who hold up a sign when protesting that truth are not necessarily aware of or aware of the principles of the actual movement. Conversations surrounding the protests against Black Lives Matter should not assume that the slogan belongs to the movement (and the movement itself should not try to "own" all those who use the hashtag or the slogan).

I also believe that if Christians do not participate in promoting the truth behind the slogan, we believe the Marxist claim that Christianity exists only to maintain the injustices that it (Marxism) is trying to correct.

I think many of my fellow believers would be surprised at how many people in my field are disgusted with our beliefs, not because they believe that we have outdated ideas about God (although this is also a general belief), but because we have failed so many times to stand up for the oppressed throughout history.

My answer to this disgust is that they are not mistaken when Christians have often done the wrong thing in history, but that when Christians have done the wrong thing, we acted in a way that does not conform to our own principles of trust. Since I believe that even Christians struggle with sin, I am not surprised when I study history and read that my brothers and sisters have massive blind spots and act accordingly (I wonder what my own massive blind spots are).

But I believe that these blind spots are just that – blind spots, areas where they have not recognized the truths of Scripture or have not understood how to use them. However, when I see atrocities committed by Lenin, Stalin or Mao, I see the source of these atrocities built into their own philosophy and the assumption that creating a virtual paradise (a classless society) is possible and it is It is therefore worth to be reached regardless of the situation.

In addition, the members of the LGBTQ community are very sensitive that they are not excluded from conversations that are about justice for other marginalized groups. While holding on to a traditional biblical view of sexuality that would offend many in the LGBTQ community, I think it is important that they be treated as the people they are and I am willing to listen to them, even if I don't want to agree to all of their claims.

Members of the LGBTQ community truly fear that they may experience violence and dehumanization from others (and cases of such violence are well documented).

As humans, they deserve protection from these threats. Talking about the difference between disagreement and dehumanization is difficult because it involves questions about identity categories, but I hope and pray that such talks can still take place.

Argument # 4: The concept of “white privilege” is unjust because it blames whites today for atrocities such as slavery or segregation that were built generations ago and that they were not involved in creating. It also suggests that white people should feel guilty of racism today, even if they are not racists themselves.

Answer: Some people probably use the term "white privilege" in this way (the conversation develops so quickly that such terminology develops new shades of meaning at an accelerated rate). However, the term is helpful in describing a real phenomenon that I have personally witnessed. Take it with you and I'll define it first and then tell a personal story to illustrate what I mean.

“White privilege” refers to the phenomenon in which white people receive certain social benefits that they do not deserve – benefits that they receive by default just because they are white.

To be clear, I don't feel guilty about being born white. I was created this way and it is no longer a sin to be born white than to be a member of another race.

However, I recognize that some people – and some institutions – react differently to me because I am white. For example, I am not followed by department store prevention officers because I look like "the kind of person who could steal something". My black friends did that to them.

Here the term "privilege" becomes sticky because it can be understood to mean that I have an advantage that I shouldn't have – d. H. That we should both be followed in business. In fact, however, I do get the benefit of the doubt – the default assumption that I will be honest until I do or say anything to undermine this assumption.

What the concept of privilege actually suggests is that we should both get the benefit of the doubt. It's not a privilege because I shouldn't have it. It's a privilege because I have it and other people who are as honest as I don't have it. In this context, the term draws attention to an unjust and illogical inequality of expectations.

How should I answer now? Should I feel guilty for the racism that informs loss prevention officers' tendencies to target clients other than me for surveillance?

I shouldn't feel guilty about being responsible for what other people do. After all, I didn't ask the loss prevention officers to follow other people. However, I should feel guilty if I recognize the bigger problem at work – both individual and systemic racism – and do nothing about it.

I can't fix it on my own, but I can get in touch. I can vote. I can teach texts in my classroom that deal with these problems. I can say something when a white friend tells a racist joke. I can listen to my friends of color when they share their experiences and let their insights guide me. If I don't, I'm part of the problem and blamed for keeping it going (even though I didn't cause it personally).

I could also feel other emotions, such as anger, which is an appropriate response to injustice. This is exactly what I felt when I visited the local Social Security Office before my wedding thirteen years ago to get an updated map.

My sister, a Korean who was adopted at the age of three months and naturalized as an American citizen in early childhood, had married her husband in the same ceremony. She was more up to date than I was and had already gone to the office to get her ticket. She had taken the necessary documents listed on the website with her – birth certificate, current social security card, photo ID, etc. When she got to the office and showed her papers, they asked for more: they wanted to see other papers and documents, etc. that were not officially required, when she already had a valid social security card.

I remember they asked for her to take several trips to her office – I even remember that she wanted to get her to do a test in American history (because all real Americans seem to know their history so well) . Finally she got the card.

After hearing about all the tires she jumped through, I was nervous about getting my ticket. I checked again to make sure I had everything – birth certificate, social security card, photo ID, etc.

When I got to the window, I handed over my current card and said I was there to get an updated card with my new name. The woman behind the counter gave it to me without asking for my driver's license.

When I got back to my car, I called my sister and scolded which racist idiots ran the social security office and how outraged I was for them. I probably felt a little self-righteous, to be honest, because of my outrage, and I think I was right to feel the outrage. However, I shouldn't have felt so fair.

A fairer person would have gone back inside and asked to speak to the employee's manager. Maybe I wasn't a racist, but I didn't do anything to challenge racism when it hit me in the face, so despite my just anger, I didn't do the right thing because I don't like confrontation.

I hope and pray that given the injustices in the national news these days, I will do the right thing the next time I get the chance. For this reason, I am writing this essay-length note and know very well that my Marxist friends (if they take the time to read them) will not appreciate my objections to their philosophy and that some of my Christian friends (if they take the time) ) to read it) will see me as sold out.

However, this time I want to do the right thing and do my best to contribute to a difficult conversation. I appreciate all honest answers, whether they agree with me or not. Important questions are raised on issues that directly and / or indirectly affect my brothers and sisters in Christ – and my friends of other faiths, and not communities of faith that share similar concerns about justice.

I end my long deliberations by talking on or outside of social media.


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