James White missed the opportunity to learn. To grow. To move toward a better and stronger church in light of the challenges put forward by Ekemini, Jemar, and others.
So writes Marcos Ortega in an April 1st blog article at “Reformed Margins.” It is a well written article—but it continues the same theme of, “If you will not legitimize the narrative, you are the problem.” Instead of honestly acknowledging the reality of the actual intention, and even words, of my original commentary on an obviously non-Christian young man expressing his rebellion against authority (and follow up comments on the importance of fatherhood to all aspects of a young man’s life, from sexual morals to one’s view of authority), it seems that the reality of what I actually said is no longer relevant. In fact, I get the feeling it has never been relevant. Which is the real problem.
Now let me say, I have received a tremendous outpouring of support from the entire spectrum of what we might call “the Reformed community.” White, black, Asian, Hispanic–and a few times I had to stop to even think of what the proper “racial identification” would be for someone since, again, I simply do not embrace, accept, or utilize a racial lens within the body of Christ. Many have said I have expressed their own deep concerns for what they are seeing happening even in ostensibly “Reformed” circles as it becomes not just fashionable, but absolutely necessary, to embrace some form of “racial narrative.” And may I note, the circularity of this position is so fierce, and its presuppositional nature so strong, that many of its adherents, upon reading the sentence above in italics, immediately rolled their eyes, for, in their worldview, I do not exist. That is, they deny, presuppositionally, that one can treat people on a basis other than race, such as, the redemptive basis (we are both redeemed sinners, we are both indwelt by the Holy Spirit, therefore what happened to my ancestors, your ancestors, or anything else, simply cannot be allowed to define us outside of the barrier-shattering reality of a common salvation). It is so central to their own experience that they cannot admit the existence of any other paradigm.
Brother Ortega’s article continues the same theme enunciated elsewhere: I was wrong, facts and arguments do not need to be offered. It is a given, since, someone was offended, therefore, the verdict is a given. Did the RAAN article contain a prejudicial picture that was not representative of the reality? Doesn’t matter. Did the RAAN article misrepresent my original article and contain numerous non-sequiturs? Irrelevant. Did the RAAN article fail to provide a meaningful biblical argument to back up the accusations of racism, attack, offense, etc.? Simply doesn’t matter. Instead, Ortega writes of the RAAN article, “I was challenged and spurred on to continue speaking as a show of support for those different than me.” Well, the RAAN article did call for people to respond—by denouncing me, of course. Evidently, calling for the denunciation of a Reformed minister, without the need for dealing with the distracting necessity of fairness, evidence, the extension of grace, etc., fits with the “narrative.”
I remind folks that there was not a single word, not a syllable, in that little 545 word post about black Christians, black churches, Christianized CRT, or anything else. It wasn’t about a Christian young man. It was about an obviously non-Christian young man and it was about a cultural crisis. It was about fatherlessness and sexual immorality and the plague of abortion and my own recognition of how God’s grace had kept me when I was a youth. What does any of that have to do with a call in the RAAN article for black Christians to defend against…me? Nothing, logically, but everything, if you accept the implantation of a racialist lens into the eye of the Christian community. Something has to be able to explain how someone can jump from that little article and the issues it raises to the allegation of an all-out attack on black Christians by that nasty guy from Phoenix. Something has to explain how people who self-identify as Reformed could utilize means of reasoning and thought and even exegesis that would never lead to the foundations of Reformed theology and would never provide a defense of that system of theology. Naive and hopeful person that I am, I assume someone who is willing to suffer the slings and arrows of being called “Reformed” should apply the same standards of logical thought and fairness to all other areas, most especially in looking at what someone such as myself would say. And yes, of course, many of my Reformed brethren, of all races, have, in fact, done exactly that. But Brother Ortega, and those at RAAN, have chosen not to do so. The question is, why?
I think the answer comes a bit later. Note these sentiments:
It’s important to note that this is the second time in just a few weeks that a minority thinker in the Reformed world has been castigated from daring to talk about racial issues in ways majority culture finds distasteful.
The number of “huh” moments in that one sentence is amazing. Castigated? As in, “Shown to have made errors of thought and reasoning”? “Racial issues.” And here I thought my little post was about sin issues! Oh, wait—if the lens is green, everything is green, so, if the lens is race, everything is race. I see how this works! And, just what is the “majority culture”? Majority Reformed “culture”? I have no idea. “Distasteful”? I surely found it distasteful, since it was a call to come together to condemn me for violating standards I do not even acknowledge as biblical and that have nothing at all to do with what I initially wrote or intended to communicate.
As minorities enter into the Reformed conversation and begin to shape it, some are pushing back with claims that the voices of minorities are influenced too much by the world and aren’t falling in line with the Reformed rank-and-file.
Or, many ministers, of many skin tones, in the “Reformed community,” have not submitted to the implantation of the racialist lens and hence can still recognize a foreign paradigm when it is functioning in a Christian context. We can see the huge leap from celebrating the diversity of human experience in the redemptive purpose of the people of God to the enforcement of racialist paradigms that are, in fact, divisive and subversive to the unity of the body. And yes, we can see that much of the language and buzz-words are not derived from Christian reflection but from secular theories, brought over, with a heavy dusting of spiritual language, into the Christian context. And yes, we are troubled.
The claim is correct in one regard: we’re not falling in line. We’re talking about things and using categories that are somewhat new to the Reformed conversation. Brothers and sisters, this isn’t liberalism. This isn’t “mission drift” or the creeping influence of the world. This is what happens when the Reformed tradition begins to experience the growing pains of change.
I would really like to be able to interpret those words in a positive light. I might have been able to a bit more just a few weeks ago. But having been the object of ceaseless misrepresentation, false accusations, and pronouncements of guilt without the necessity of evidence, it has become much harder. And the only “category” I can identify that is “somewhat new” to the “Reformed conversation” is racialism. And when I ask for a meaningful, sound, exegetical basis for this racialism, I do not get one. Liberalism? Well, not theological liberalism anyway, but I am not the first one to detect the scent of cultural leftism (CRT) sneaking through the heavy perfume of Eau de Geneva. But I wonder—what is the end game here? What “change” is being envisioned? We can use all the platitudes we want about iron sharpening iron—but I have found out over the past few weeks that that sharp iron is formed into swords and spears that are used to threaten with banishment (if not worse) those who will not bow to the all-powerful “narrative.”