Today’s newest buzzwords: social justice, anti-racist, white privilege, activism.
These have to signify progress, right?
As much as I am tempted to believe that these vague yet positive-sounding concepts are a step in the right direction, the distortion of definitions is evident. There is a cultural shift happening, and it is concerning to me that so few see it happening, especially in the church.
This shift is not one that aims for equality or justice, as it claims. Today, anybody who doesn’t fall in line with the approved policies and issues, who is not openly “anti-racist”, is given the title of racist. These labels serve only to silence dissenting voices trying to bring wisdom and caution to a situation where the world is acting on impulse and emotion.
My intention in writing this is not to belittle or discount anybody else’s views. There is real pain, real racism, real suffering, and real sin in the world, and we should talk about it. But it is equally important to talk about the false ideology spreading under the guise of fighting these evils — one that is doing more harm than good. I want to trace the roots of this ideology, expose some of its flaws, share some other voices, and help others see the potential dangers of following it blindly.
Until we clarify what these terms mean, we will not be able to move forward to any real solutions.
Where We Can All Agree
First things first, I think we need to create some common ground.
Nobody is arguing that we turn a blind eye to injustice. Nobody is denying that God calls us to “do justice, love mercy, walk humbly” (Micah 6:8). Nobody is ignoring the wrongs and evils of the past.
We should act with justice and love. The question is: what does this look like?
Justice requires truth. If the cultural view of justice is wrong, we shouldn’t follow it — even if we feel pressured or the majority deems it correct.
Call it Like it is: Exposing Cultural Marxism
In 1929, a group of Marxist philosophers, known as the Frankfurt School, began developing a new concept called Critical Theory.
The goal? Explain every circumstance that keeps humans in bondage and teach people how they can liberate themselves from the powers that cause suffering.
Critical theory continued to develop through the decades, taking on feminism, race, colonialism, and more. While Marxism deals with economics, critical theory is a kind of cultural Marxism that views society not as full of individuals, but full of oppressed groups and oppressor groups.
Social justice sees the world in the same way. While it purports to be justice, it is really based on cultural Marxism. Justice seeks fair treatment, equality under the law, and impartial punishment for wrongdoing. Social justice seeks equality of outcomes and the distribution of wealth.
It is on these narrow grounds of group identity that the wars of politics are waged. The discussions center not on whether policies are objectively just, but whether they benefit women, or blacks, or (insert other oppressed group). We act like each group votes with a collective mind.
Things that start in academia often trickle into society, and we are seeing this come full circle. Now, this critical theory is taught in universities everywhere, assumed in public discourse, and embedded in our culture. Last semester, a Literary Theory and Criticism course I took for my English major included many texts advocating for this thinking. Quite frankly, I was taken off guard by some of the ideas presented.
I sat in disbelief as I heard my professor repeatedly emphasize that the goal of many 20th century philosophers was to completely overturn the foundations of Western thought and the Judeo-Christian values that formed our society.
To understand reality, we instead should defer to the lived experience of people in oppressed groups. In other words, ignore objective facts.
The lesson: Individuality doesn’t matter. You are your group.
The Bigger Problems with Social Justice
There are three major issues with the way social justice views the world.
One: It says you are a group, not an individual.
If you are white, you cannot be oppressed because you are in power. Your personal experiences do not matter because you are in power. No matter what you have done, you are condemned because you are in power.
If you are black, you cannot be racist because you are oppressed. Your actions are justified because you are oppressed. Regardless of how good of a life you have had, you are oppressed.
Two: It says problems are external, not internal.
This results directly from a misunderstanding of human nature. Marxism believes that all evils are a result of societal systems, not flawed humans. But society is unjust because individual people are, and that’s important to understand.
Like classical Marxism, this new ideology holds to evil in the form of power structures. In every culture, the dominant ideology will be used as a means of oppression for others. By liberating ourselves from the oppressive ideologies of the past, we can redefine the future on our own terms.
This lie encourages people not to work hard and not to seek a better life for themselves. Why would you when blaming the world is so easy and acceptable?
Three: It affirms knowledge comes from perspective, not fact.
The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy explains the contrast between traditional theory and the critical theory of social justice in this way:
“Traditional theory, whether deductive or analytical, has always focused on coherency and on the strict distinction between theory and praxis. Along Cartesian lines, knowledge has been treated as grounded upon self-evident propositions or, at least, upon propositions based on self-evident truths. Accordingly, traditional theory has proceeded to explain facts by application of universal laws, that is, by subsumption of a particular to a universal in order to either confirm or disconfirm this. A verificationist procedure of this kind was what positivism considered to be the best explicatory account for the notion of praxis in scientific investigation. If one were to defend the view according to which scientific truths should pass the test of empirical confirmation, then one would commit oneself to the idea of an objective world. Knowledge would be simply a mirror of reality. This view is firmly rejected by critical theorists.”
This is why you hear things like “believe all women” when women can and do lie. It’s why people say “listen to black voices” but ignore when their perspective may not line up with facts or other black voices even have alternative opinions.
The worldview of social justice is riddled with contradictions because the theory it is based on does not value facts first.
It gets worse.
Because lived experience is valued over objective morals, holding to the fact that the Bible outlines two genders is inherently sexist. Even holding to biology is sexist. Women define what women are, not any other set of external universal laws.
If you agree with this theory, it shuts down all dialogue and forces you to agree with the oppressed to be moral.
America’s Newest Religion
Let’s take a few steps back. Most people who fall into social justice aren’t in line with this whole ideology. They might follow parts, but they generally think they are doing good.
Even this half-way committed stance is dangerous. The ideology of social justice seems so innocuous, so benevolent and kind, even Biblical at times, that many are tricked into following an entirely new worldview.
Many claim to be irreligious, yet fervently follow social justice. Others, who are Christians, have not realized that these beliefs are fundamentally incompatible with Christianity.
John McWhorter, professor of linguistics and philosophy at Columbia University, has been talking about the religious nature of the “woke” social justice ideology for years.
He writes in an article published in The American Interest:
“This brand of self-flagellation has become the new form of enlightenment on race issues. It qualifies as a kind of worship; the parallels with Christianity are almost uncannily rich. White privilege is the secular white person’s Original Sin, present at birth and ultimately ineradicable. One does one’s penance by endlessly attesting to this privilege in hope of some kind of forgiveness…”
He continues to explain how little this actually accomplishes:
“What gets lost is that all of this awareness was supposed to be about helping black people, especially poor ones. We are too often distracted from this by a race awareness that has come to be largely about white people seeking grace. For example, one reads often of studies showing that black boys are punished and suspended in school more often than other kids. But then one reads equally often that poverty makes boys, in particular, more likely to be aggressive and have a harder time concentrating. We are taught to assume that the punishments and suspensions are due to racism, and to somehow ignore the data showing that the conditions too many black boys grow up in unfortunately makes them indeed more likely to act up in school. Might the poverty be the key problem to address? But, try this purely logical reasoning in polite company only at the risk of being treated as a moral reprobate. Our conversation is to be solely about racism, not solutions — other than looking to a vaguely defined future time when racism somehow disappears, America having “come to terms” with it: i.e. Judgment Day. ”
Instead of Jesus liberating us from sin through his death and resurrection, as is believed in the Christian faith, we are to liberate ourselves from power structures.
As far as religions go, social justice isn’t even a good one.
It is a religion of hate, self-loathing, and division. Just take an excerpt from a popular article floating around right now titled, “Yes My Dear, All White People Are Racists.”
“I need you White and White passing people to understand that a White person or non-Black person of color unwilling to admit their inherent anti-Blackness is not an ally, but an enemy. You cannot fix what is broken unless you admit to yourselves you’ve been raised and taught by racist parents, who raised you in racist systems and white spaces to give you the best chance of making it in a White world because they knew how bad it was being Black.”
Can you honestly read that statement and think it is loving?
Why do we only have inherent anti-blackness? Why don’t we inherit the anti-Irishness from their oppression in the 1800s? Or another bias from ancestors in the past? Why is this the sin we are condemned by?
I understand that history has not always been right. That even today, things are not right. But none of us are guilty of anything other than what we have done.
The sins I struggle with aren’t identical to everybody in my genealogy. You’re not going to see them by a glance at the color of my skin.
Ideas Have Consequences: Implications for the Church and Society
To see the real danger in this philosophy, you need to look beyond the vague notions of good and helping the oppressed and follow it to the logical conclusions.
Bizarre things happen when you convince people they are guilty in virtue of their race. Books on facing your white privilege become best sellers. White people bow down to kiss the shoes of black men out of guilt. Crowds of individuals sit with hands raised in the air, renouncing their white privilege.
Instead of living by the grace of God, we’re taking others’ opinions as gospel and seeking forgiveness for something we did not do. Instead of consulting what the word of God says about race, pastors are sending congregants to books written by atheist authors. This is idolatry.
What aims to create reconciliation is really sowing division.
Social justice places undue importance on issues of ethnicity — things that matter — but don’t define us. People are suspicious of each other. We can’t let little things go, instead, we hold onto them and claim oppression.
That is why we see reparations seriously considered, and in California, a task force initiated to study methods of awarding them.
The idea is even spreading in the church. Christianity Today recently published an article that claimed “repentance is not enough.”
If repentance is not enough, then we really have no hope. No amount of money or policy changes can change hate between people. Reconciliation between hearts comes through the gospel, not worldly philosophy.
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28
The standards of social justice are impossible to meet. You will never be “woke” enough. You will never educate yourself enough, apologize enough, be a good enough activist.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.” — Galatians 5:1
This is a false gospel. Christ has already set us free from sin, we work for good in the world, we don’t need to be tied up in movements like this. By tying ourselves to it, we are adding requirements to the law. We are trying to gain grace by works, when that is outright condemned (Galatians 5:4).
Elimination of grace
Jesus is clear — we are all sinners.
“He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” — John 8:7
The idea that we can condemn an entire race is wrong. As Christians, we are called to show love and grace to all people, as God has shown to us. Categorizing people by group impedes our ability to show this kind of love.
Acceptance of worldly philosophies
The social justice ideology is all-encompassing, to the point where it has become its own world view. Race is the gateway drug. If you think this aspect of social justice is safe, think again. It provides an easy inroad for many destructive ideas.
Soon, you fall into feminism — as some promote under the guise of theology. Next, you become open to the world’s definition of sexuality — as many churches who fly rainbow flags have shown. Eventually, Biblical beliefs are completely overtaken by the world and God is written off altogether.
Don’t believe me? Just google “Christian Privilege” and you will find an abundance of articles outlining the concept. Some even include race, condemning “White Christian Privilege.”
This article from 2016 reports on a University of San Francisco initiative to raise awareness about social inequities. The poster, shown below, included Christians among the privileged groups.
What happens when they ask you to renounce your Christianity due to privilege? If you’ve already renounced your whiteness, that might be the next logical step.
The church needs to remember Christ is our head, not culture.
Be Careful with Language — A Word for the Wise.
“If the social justice movement went by its actual name, young Christians would not have been lured into it. Because the social justice movement is actually Cultural Marxism. There’s no such thing as ‘social justice,’ people. In fact, in the Bible, justice never has an adjective. There’s justice and there’s injustice, but there’s not different kinds of justice.” — Voddie Baucham
As a college sophomore, it’s disheartening to see others my age pulled into a worldview that is so destructive. I get it though. We’ve grown up in school with these ideologies shoved down our throats. Sometimes it feels like there is no alternative.
This generation is the turning point. If we want discourse and freedom to continue in this country, we have to be willing to listen to each other. If we are a church that claims to follow Christ, we need to understand and not be swayed by the culture.
The only power that keeps us in bondage is sin. The only one who can free us is Jesus, the son of God who triumphed over sin by dying on the cross and paying the price for you and me.
We can’t use the language of the world and not expect confusion. We have to call it like it is.
“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. ” — Ephesians 5:15–17