Below is my play-by-play commentary on a 30 minute panel at the MLK50 TGC Conference. It was a painful, annoying 30 minutes of my life. But a friend requested some thoughts.
What is the heart of my criticism? Problems were assumed, not established. Why? Problems of the kind of systemic racism they want to fight against cannot be established by the facts. They have to be emotionally assumed. And TGC is more than happy to go along with it. And you know what happens when we make assumptions, right? While there were moments of true things said, by Benjamin Watson and Juan Sanchez, the vast bulk of the panel is as nutritious for the church as is offal.
My conclusion? This panel is reflective of what TGC has become. As a parachurch organization, it is not helpful to local churches.
The beginning question to the panel: Isn’t racism no longer a major problem in America? Why keep talking about it?
Justin Giboney is first to answer. And he gives a non-answer. He says that blacks have been enslaved in America longer than blacks have been free. So what? That doesn’t answer the question.
He says that slavery was really about psychological warfare which doesn’t go away in a generation or two. But who understands what that means? Why doesn’t whatever he’s talking about go away in a generation or two? How do we know when it goes away? How do you get rid of psychological trauma caused generations ago? Do we need to create a federal department of counselors and hugs?
He then wants to talk about redlining, which he admits has ended, and about housing discrimination, which he says has ended. So I’ve got a bunch of stuff on the table that is no longer an issue.
He throws in educational disparities at the end. But he knows that he can’t establish the equivalence of difference and injustice, or establish that the difference is because of white racists, so he throws it in at the end and moves on before you can think critically.
Oh, at the 3 minute mark he finally helps us understand. There are vague, unnamed things going on unseen under the table between unnamed leaders. Those are the things we should be mad about and fight against. I’m glad it has been cleared up.
Christina Edmondson is next to speak, at 3:21. She has a fake job at Calvin College. She says that time doesn’t deal with sin. Repentance deals with sin. But, the question remains, what sin? Is she talking about her personal racial animosity toward whites who don’t grovel at black liberal feet? Is she talking about her own racism, where she ascribes sins to me simply on the color of my skin, like the curse of Ham? Thankfully, the crowd didn’t think about this. They just applauded.
She says that the last presidential election is proof positive that these are still pressing issues in America. She wept over Trump’s victory because, as she puts it, the witness of the global church was at stake. She assumes we will empathize because she is a crying woman, and nobody wants to be the heartless guy who doesn’t care when a woman is crying. But her tears don’t establish any point other than that she is a woman who is more emotional than men, and also politically confused.
Benjamin Watson, whom I respect, gets into the fray. He assumes police brutality is uniquely a problem against blacks in America. Prove it. It isn’t. He assumes that the criminal justice system, particularly in sentencing, is racially partial against blacks. Prove it. It isn’t.
Juan Sanchez speaks at around 10 minutes. Juan is a good man. But he can’t anecdotally establish a claim that the church is broadly doing something wrong, or not doing something right, about racial injustice today. He says we can bring reproach upon the church, which is true. But he tries to put men who think TGC is full of ignoramuses on race in the same category as “pastors” who want private jets. Prove it.
Sanchez marvelously explains Ephesians 2 and 3. Then he pauses, looks down, and says um. He does so because he can explain the text quite well, but he knows an application to MLK50 is a groin stretch of the mind. He clearly doesn’t know where to go with the end of his statement. And so it fizzles out in vagueness.
Giboney gets back into the action by pretending that one widespread problem is white evangelicals and politicians courting backing from racists. Prove it.
He complains that white evangelicals are active in fighting abortion, but passive bystanders on issues of race. Prove that those two things even belong in the same sentence.
Giboney finishes by pleading with me to care about him as much as I care about my child with a broken leg. What is he even talking about?
He speaks as if racial reconciliation is yet to be accomplished in the church, at 17:40. He speaks as if it is something we accomplish by responding to events in Charlottesville. But Giboney ignores the passages already explained by Sanchez. Racial reconciliation has already been accomplished, not by Jew or Greek, not by black or white, but by Jesus on the cross.
Leading up to the 19 minute mark and just past it, Benjamin Watson says some fantastic things, the best things said so far. That’s a low bar, because, so far, the panel has been without any value to the body of Christ. Watson now says something useful. The Christian’s allegiance is not to the donkey or the elephant, but to the Lamb of God and Lion of Judah, King Jesus. A hearty amen of agreement! We boast in God. We delight in what he delights in, justice, righteousness, and steadfast love. The only place where I am going to differ with Watson on is specific application of that principle. But I’m starting where he is starting. As a man of God, I want to love what God loves and hate what God hates, and wisely use my limited resources in light of that. In the context of the MLK50 conference, I just disagree with my brother on whether systemic racism is a problem in America at all. I say no. He says yes. But we share our starting point, so God bless him.
Ironically, Collin Hansen pipes up at 20 minutes to say that folks only argue to not get into politics when they disagree with the politics. I’m sure he disliked Vice President Pence speaking to pastors and messengers at the SBC.
Sanchez answers Hansen’s question on how the church should engage with politics well, but also ironically. He is at a conference that is about promoting neo-Marxist political ideology in local churches. But he argues that local churches are meant to live according to the government on heaven on earth. He says that those who fail to do so will see their work burned up. The irony is so heavy that every member of the panel has maximally oxygenated muscle fibers.
Hansen asserts that Ferguson, Charlottesville, the NFL flag protests, and the presidential election are all racial setbacks for our nation. Are we supposed to just agree because the video is branded with a TGC logo? Does he not have to establish his position with facts? If so, where are they?
Christina Edmondson sadly opens her mouth again around 24:30. And, again, all she brings to the table is eisegesis, emotion, and nice slogans like, “These touch-points make the implicit explicit.” And then she just promotes a liberal social agenda. “Either keep sinning and disagree with me. Or repent and get on the liberal social bandwagon.”
Everyone at 27 minutes energetically agrees that social media should be used to promote the ideas of MLK50. People who run in TGC circles often tell me that to use social media to disagree with the ideas of MLK50 is unwise and damaging to my ministry. Why is that the case? Biblically, why would it be wrong for me to use media platforms available to me to oppose ideas being pumped into local churches by folks with plenty of evangelical backing?
Watson ends the panel by appropriately saying that conflict isn’t bad. Amen. Again, my disagreement with Watson is in matters of application. But I appreciate that he doesn’t approach the issue with poofery. He is wrong. There is not systemic racism in America today. None of them were able to point to any present, ongoing systemic racism in America. They were all vague because they have to be. They have to fight a shadow because there is no substantive opponent in their “fight”.