My husband recently shared with me some online squabbles concerning faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. It was clear, by the end of his depiction of the arguments, that the primary issue at-hand was a clearly defined deification of human intellect, plain and simple. And, as great as our brains are, there are some issues of faith against which that intellect will always prove hostile.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. – JesusJohn 6:44
For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.Romans 8:7
The academic arguments of man aren’t always worth entertaining. Some are useful, some are 100% garbage, but always God’s words have a better lasting effect — so why bother with the worldly arguments?
Simply put, because these things cause people to stumble — even people who otherwise might believe and be saved. Just like preaching the Gospel, if we are to leave it all to pre-determined fates, then why do we bother speaking at all? And so, I must take what little I know and, like Paul beseeching those in the city of Athens on terms they could understand, I try to unravel the sociological arguments in a way a student of such can understand from a Christian perspective.
It won’t change most people’s minds, but if it helps even one to keep from tripping, then I have made use of an otherwise useless degree.
You Can’t Learn It All
Schooling (along with every family life system) lends itself to narrow views. Time-periods, block scheduling, daylight, snow days, mental exhaustion, imperfect teachers, parents, and friends; environment, nature / nurture, and the overwhelming amount of information available on any subject today means that we all get a biased education in one form or another.
If I learn only African history, I won’t likely learn all of European history; if I choose carpentry, I’m not likely to also take up cosmetology; if I major in trigonometry, I probably won’t be wholly versed in prose or informed in every nano-particle of chemistry; if I pursue a monk’s life, I won’t likely also be an amazing mechanic or cocktail aficionado (though I might make Chartreuse from ancient recipes); if I was raised by European parents, I probably won’t know much about Chinese culture. You can’t know or learn it all; and no one should expect that of anyone either. (Do we really expect that of one another? That is awful!)
Interestingly, besides the arithmetic, history, and grammar I was required to learn, I took up a personal interest in the plight of the Native Americans, especially the Iroquois and Sioux (Dakota and Lakota). Later, in my twenties, a book on the Cherokee nation graced my coffee table with a brooding and sorrowful mood. At one point, I even came up with a campaign for these nations in which I imagined billboards along the roadsides with such ancient and glorious faces beside the slogan: It’s Still Not Right.
Well, I was a sociologist before I ever sought a sociology degree. That billboard would likely be emphatically embraced on the ‘social justice’ warpath today — an idea now twenty years aged.
Why I didn’t take up that cause on the warpath of life is what today’s Christian Orientation topic is all about…
Because the belief that righting the wrongs of yesterday by means of tables-turned scenarios will not prove any less abusive, skewed, or broken than the systemic hardships we face today.
Because many who claim to want to overturn the table of the moneychangers, in actuality, simply want to turn the table, put themselves on the ‘winning’ side, and enact their own personal vengeance.
Because some who complain about systemic problems don’t actually want to be part of a change; they just want someone to listen. (Some who are abused don’t actually want to leave their abusers, even if they seek comfort.)
And because, yes, in all of these things, if we are believing Christians, we will find God at work in both places — in the systems and hearts of mankind.
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.Genesis 50:20
Systemic To What?
Decrying systemic abuses and injustices leaves us with a few questions to answer. To say that something is ‘systemic’ means that it has worked its way through the whole lump like yeast. There are laws, but they are unjust laws; there is order, but it is an unfair order; there are systems in place to protect, but those same systems just as often cause harm — or so go the arguments. But what now?
Any time a problem in society is proposed, one should also examine the proposed solutions. The offered solutions will often betray what is really being sought. Systemic problems in general have been a big talking point for a while now, but systemic as compared to what?
For the organized, institutional, lawful, and justice systems, have been proposed the autonomous (zones), mob-rule, vigilante justice, reparations, and lawlessness (defunding police). Are these good solutions? And what ‘problem’ do they really highlight?
So far as sociological theories go, I’ve always thought the conflict theory seems to fit humanity as a one-size fits all kind of general rule. The conflict theory states that there are limited resources and, thus, there will always be fighting and infighting over these resources. Well, so far as I can tell, that is mostly true. Isn’t it?
The problem is that the pie doesn’t get bigger. Think fractions in math. You can divide that pie into two or twenty pieces, but it will still only be one pie — the same size. Pieces may be larger or smaller, but they can only be large or small in proportion to the size of the pie.
Because of this, the theory goes, someone will always have a bigger slice and someone will always have a smaller slice. No matter how lovely socialism sounds with its all-the-same-sized pieces, organized life rarely works out that way — and when it does, it’s like a regular pie being divided amongst billions: we all end up with crumbs (except the dictator who talked us into this other system, reigns supreme, and takes the lion’s share).
Even at its best in Biblical times, things didn’t work that way. Except for maybe Adam and Eve, but, hey, that was before the fall of mankind; everything was gravy before that, I hear. But who was poor and starving in the world while Solomon was building temples of gold? I don’t know, but I’d bet a good pair of shoes poor and unjustly treated people existed in Solomon’s day, as well as in Jesus’ day… Why couldn’t someone so wise as Solomon fix everything? Why didn’t Jesus?
So, everyone today wants to live like a king; we will all soon be paupers.
So everyone today wants to be coach; there will soon be no game, no one willing to follow or train or actually play what the coach is trying to teach.
So everyone today wants to dethrone the billionaires; there will soon be no jobs and no products to buy — not of the quality and quantity we are accustomed to anyhow.
As nation replaces nation, as king replaces king, so one flawed system of man replaces another flawed system of man. There is no systemic salvation.
Some crying ‘systemic racism’ today share hypothetical photos of white men wearing chains around their necks, as black slaves once did, and call it ‘woke’. Strangely, the delusion proposed is that somehow picturing that — the true desires of a tables-turned heart — ‘opens eyes’ to how horrible conditions were (?), or how the history could have been different (?), or what certain social groups are now owed based on the other group’s latent and imposed guilt for crimes their ancestors may (or may not have personally) committed (?) – ?
I would not even bother with such things if I had not seen them on supposed blood-bought and redeemed saints’ social media pages. And for what purpose I wonder?
Enlightenment? Awareness? ‘Wokeness’?
Surely, that is not the case. We may not have been schooled in every shock-and-awe detail of that grizzly part of our American history, but most of us were taught about the atrocities and injustices of slavery past, along with our very imperfect steps at amending it. I would not argue that we have fully redeemed the past, any more than I would say that we have done justice to the Native Americans — I would not. I may not be erecting billboards, but I have eyes too.
Such atrocities do not leave us untouched in their wake. There is nothing, dear friend, that can make that past history right. Not reparations. Not violent retribution. Not tables-turned. If all white Americans were put in chains today to serve out some past penitence for their dead ancestors, the enslavers would very soon find themselves committing horrors on par with the very ones from which they claim to seek ‘justice’.
Shall we also kill all the Germans, all of German descent, to eradicate ourselves of the Nazi blood? This is the same logic. Why hasn’t anyone suggested that yet?
The Chinese should be next to go; their sins surely reach to the heavens.
Ah, and what of Russia? The atrocities committed against Ukraine, I hear, are worthy enough of wiping the entire country off the map.
Which tribes should be next to go in Africa? Perhaps those with ties to the “middle passage”?
Let’s see, which genocide shall we commit next to purify the human race?
The fallenness of mankind (that is the human race) is systemic: we all bear it (we are all guilty as sin before God – every one).
Many who are personally abused in life (physically, sexually, verbally, emotionally, spiritually, etc…) are never again the same. And, yes, it is horrific. It is awful. It demands justice. But can you give them that justice, friend?
No… you can’t. Only God can save and redeem such an abused soul. And we would do far better to remember that all vengeances belong to God alone.
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.Romans 12:19
Is He not God also over the systems of mankind? — His own creation?
If you claim to be a Christian, you must grapple with such questions and lay your own vengeance to rest… as I lay mine to rest against the elite and upper-classes.
We all have someone to begrudge for our social circumstances.
So, where did the rise in these blood-ablutionary social sentiments come from anyway? The truth is, they’ve been festering between the covers of sociology textbooks and in pulpits for decades.
Frantz Fanon, considered the ‘father of postcolonial studies’, argued that:
The only sure way to exterminate this oppressive relationship is “absolute violence,” a total revolution that destroys colonial rule and, with it, the categories or identities of black and white. This alone will achieve the necessary “collective catharsis” that will allow subjugated populations to purge themselves of the dehumanizing colonial culture that reduces them to the status of animals.Classical and Contemporary Sociological Theory, Appelrouth & Edles, 2012
While he worked in Algeria and Africa back in the 1950s and 60s, one can easily see how his sentiments relate and translate to today’s social vibes concerning racism. I cannot speak to what colonial rule was like in Algeria or Africa; it may well have been far worse than 1950s America. (I was reading about Native American history and living in a mostly white trailer park and being made fun of for not watching MTV some thirty years after Fanon lived, remember; we can’t know it all.) In either case, however, the grievance stated seems to be the way the white person is accused of viewing every other color of skin: inferiority is the assumed view.
Historically, that is well-warranted. Many slave-owners held such a mindset, perhaps all. But I cannot say that is true of a majority in America today. In general, I don’t believe that the majority of the last three generations or so think of someone with a differing skin color as inferior; that is a sentiment long past for most people in America. At any rate, it has not been a part of my social context or upbringing. (My bias in the Harvard bias test was against lighter skin; I used to feel more comfortable around dark skin than light — though that is a sentiment that has been well tried over the last five years.)
So, why is this past sentiment only now being reflected back, hurled back into every white-skinned person’s lap? Maybe we’re not accused of slavery, but something like it under the guise of terms like “white-savior”, “toxic”, “white fragility”, “privileged”, and “racist” (just for being born white in a system crafted by mostly white people).
Because hurt people, hurt people — I believe, and it is a reality I have lived.
Some wounds go beyond and behind the reach of the present; they cannot be accounted for by mere human means.
Hypothetically, if my grandmother and grandfather and an aunt or uncle were all killed by runaway slaves back in the day, that would leave an impression of opinion on my life, wouldn’t it?
If all of my brothers and sisters had died in the Holocaust as Jews, I would probably see the world differently than I do as an American with Danish ancestors. I can sympathize and empathize, but I cannot fully understand what was not my burden to bear in life.
If my father died when I was young, I lived with various guardians, never felt in control of my own life, married young, divorced, lost twelve years worth of relationships and roots, moved a lot, and couldn’t afford to buy a (fixer-upper) house until I was 40 years old — all true — well, it would give me a different view of life than you. (And it has.)
For every man shall bear his own burden.Galatians 6:5
So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.Romans 14:12
Every soul, every nation, every church will have to give an account to God. Does He not know your burdens? Will these burdens, hardships, or circumstances justify us before God? Can your abuser’s sins, group or individual, excuse your own sins?
Not according to God.
Jesus overturned tables because people with some cunning or authority were turning the house of God into a means for profit and extortion. Jesus didn’t protest not being in charge of the table; he didn’t set his disciples behind that table to take over affairs. Jesus protested the presence of the table itself — the exchanging of God’s will for His people, for the will of those who wanted to get something out of it, to benefit in the process of redemption.
Have we now turned the house of prayer into a house of vengeance?
A house of white or black superiority?
A house of indebtedness rather than a house of freedom?
A house of self-pity or self-glory?
Those using the church to promote the ‘woke’ gospel will also give an account to God.
Some seek to right the abuses of the institutionalized church by leaving church, as some seek to exit the social systems to enact their own version of godliness. Who can deny the abuses that have been found out within its sanctimonious walls? No one can dare; too many have fallen, too much has been witnessed and true. But is all order, all buildings, all authority structures to be blamed for the (typically) individual actions of the abusers?
I believe it is only when we stop idolizing these institutions and positions of power as our end-all means of social salvation, that we can find true rest and peace and justice. When we stop idolizing the approval of church leaders as the key to our salvation, we remember that the Lord alone is our salvation; when we stop with the illusion that politics, government, social systems, and positions of power will fix all of our problems, then we can turn our eyes to heaven, for from there comes our help. Only then will we find the power to recognize our own sins, forgive our abusers (past, present, future), and see the Church as God sees her.
When I stopped acting as if all of my value in life came by what society had to say about me and remembered my identity in Christ, it is then I found contentment.
Why do we idolize our abusers? Why do we give them so much power? Why do we believe our expectations for life and healing can be met only when our abusers recognize and own up to the damages they’ve caused us (and grovel at our feet)? That too is a delusion, friend; I know. I’ve lived it.
When I remembered God as the Head of all things — me, my family, my marriage, church, circumstance, my life story, the nations — then the brokenness of systems and the brokenness of the individuals within those systems that hurt me no longer had power over my mind and heart. And only then.
Is God, God or is He not?
If He is not, then you will continue to believe that you can seek recompense for all of your pain elsewhere and by other means.
But if He is God of your heart and mind, then you can pray and seek healing from His hands.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed. — Isaiah 53:5
Our heartaches are spiritual; our physical ailments and abuses are spiritual; our emotional and mental anguishes are spiritual; is not the blood of Christ enough for all of these things? Does He not know, see, and understand His own creation? Will the God of the whole earth not do justly?
“Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”Genesis 18:25
Will he judge our skin color or our hearts at the final judgement?
Saints, are these not the elementary teachings of grace, faith, and salvation? If we cannot accept these as our milk to grow, then we will never taste the meat of peace with God.
Is peace with God or peace with mankind sweeter?
I know which I prefer!
Even so… Jesus prays for both.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”Matthew 22:37
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor’ and ‘Hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Do not even tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even Gentiles do the same?”
— Matthew 5:43-47
I pray that your reward is rich at heaven’s gates. Store your treasures and worth there, friend, along with your heart.
Never forget that God put His own people in captivity when He so desired, and God delivered them when it was time as well. He rules in the affairs of humanity — yes, even in its perceived injustices, whether we would hear it or not, even as He was not dethroned during Job’s trial.
Why should you contend with man, who is your equal and also subject before God, when you have the ear of the Creator of the Universe?
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”Job 1:21