Racial Justice is Not “Liberalism”

Machen 2

We reject theological liberalism–defined by J. Gresham Machen in Christianity and Liberalism as a “different gospel” from the Scriptural gospel. (43, 44)

Above is the first “Denial” listed in the “Report of the ad Interim Committee on Racial and Ethnic Reconciliation to the Forty-Sixth General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.” Every time I read this line, I think, “yep,” and keep reading. No alarms.

But as time and debate has continued since its publication and adoption, I’m starting to wonder if many within the Presbyterian and Reformed tradition see this inclusion as a contradiction of the rest of the document, especially among the self-described “Machen Warriors.” I fear that Machen’s personal political and sociological views have been illegitimately folded into his definition of “Liberalism” by modern hagiographers.

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What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 8. Systemic Racism & the “Narrow” Spirituality of the Church

voting protest and white guy

[To be fair, this is a long post, and it ends with “To be continued….” I do believe this is one of the most important discussions within modern conservative evangelicalism, so if you have the time and inclination, I believe you will be rewarded.]

Introduction

To me, the existence of systemic or institutionalized racism, i.e., “polices, practices, and procedures of institutions that have a disproportionately negative effect on racial minorities’ access to and quality of goods, services, and opportunities” (Vernellia R. Randal), is a simple deduction from three premises:

  1. Well documented and vast social and economic disparities between black and white Americans, as well as continued neighborhood and church segregation.
  2. All racial groups are equal; in Ibram X Kendi’s words, “no racial group has ever had a monopoly on any type of human trait or gene—not now, not ever.”
  3. The majority of Americans are not overt racists, members of a neo-Nazi party, or intentionally discriminating against black Americans due to conscious prejudice and hatred.

If we are committed to the truth of the above three premises, then we must begin to look for explanations that do not—intentionally or unintentionally—assume the inferiority of any race. And a very short walk back through history gives us all the data we need: four hundred years of legal and de facto marginalization for the sake of exploitation accords perfectly with the circumstances we find ourselves in today; in fact, how could we expect it to be otherwise? Truly, God has been fantastically kind to this Nation, given our history. Much worse circumstances could have justly been predicted.

Example of Systemic Racism: “Narrow” Spirituality of the Church (NSoC)

I had promised in “What Is & Isn’t Being Said: 7. Individual vs. Institutional Racism” to give specific examples of systemic racism, both from church and society, to further explicate the concept. But I have decided here, rather, to focus solely on the church—particularly the Reformed and Presbyterian Church, of which I am a member.

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