08 October 2014

All of the Remedies

by The late Frank Turk

After last week, the person reading this blog without an agenda (that is: without any built-in qualms against this blog) ought to be able to go and do likewise because they have been given all the rudimentary instructions the Bible gives someone who has the Gospel for dealing with something like racism.  But let's face it: not many come here under those terms.  Many come here looking for a reason to say, "yeah, but ..." or "no."

I'm here to help.

Let's imagine someone who has listened to the audio linked in this post, and then read all the fundamental non-biblical literature posted here and here to get a picture of what a semi-secular view of the problem is, and then waded through the muddled and simplistic things written here and here and here.  That person, after a week of rumination on these things, then says, "Frank, I just don't get it.  I mean: sure.  Theology, right.  But what is it that I am supposed to -do- if that's what I believe.  I mean: some other bloggers and authors have told me I should invite people to dinner rather than think about the problems of dignity or of competing consciousnesses  in the face of cruelty and dehumanization.  I completely understand how to invite somebody to dinner.  I do not understand all the big words you have used.  And to be honest: I think you don't either.  I think the problem is you hide behind the big words to avoid real people, and that I think it's a lot more helpful to tell me to invite people to dinner than it is to read W.E.B. DuBois from the turn of the last century and imagine that this is still the problem of black people today.  What's the actual 'to-do' item if all the things you have posted on and around your hiatus are true?"

My initial response to this way of approaching what I wrote is to think that this hypothetical person needs to graduate from the 6th grade.  From my perspective, I know a lot of 6th graders (all homeschooled, so that might be the problem and the solution) who could follow my instructions and get at least an "E" for effort.  However, because we live in an age when people demand instructions and then don't follow them anyway, I'll elaborate.

The first error my posts seek to foil is the error of saying, "If you are a White person you should ... but if you are a Black person, you should rather ..."  If there is a solution to racism, it is the same solution to both sides because while the problem may manifest different symptoms on both sides, at the end of the drama we should still be able to agree that what we really want is what MLK wanted -- "[that] little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."  For that to happen, whoever you are, you personally need to behave in such a way that shows you clearly want to be judged by your own character, and you must judge others only by their character and not (for example) by their job or their neighborhood.  If you cannot agree to this, you are not about to implement the Gospel solution -- you are about to implement someone else's solution.  The "to do" there is to do unto others as you would have them do to you.  I know it's a cliche and may sound trite, but it is still a red-letter Jesus saying.

The second error my posts seek to foil is the one where we think that somehow some opportunities are beneath us.  In a sane world, I should have to append that sentiment with the clause "or above us (as in, out of our reach)," but the problem we have is that we think the only opportunities worth striving for are the ones which cause us to be Oprah or Bill Gates -- and the truth is that there are ample opportunities still for those who are willing to start where everyone really starts in order to get someplace worth arriving toward.  For example, if you want a career in Logistics (note: a career, like most people have, not to own all trucks), you could start by driving a truck -- and making about $40K your first year.  Given that your living expenses driving a truck over the road are pretty low (you usually live in the truck), that's a pretty decent wage -- and after doing that for 5 years, you could have saved enough to go to college and get a degree in logistics -- after which you have 5 years experience and a degree and no debt.

My point being: nobody dreams of being a truck driver -- but in a world where people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, there is not merely nothing wrong with being a truck driver: it is actually a credit for you to do that in order to achieve something greater.  If you refuse to take that route (or one like it) in order to get where you think you want to go, that is not the fault of other people: that is part of the content of your character.  Seeing opportunities in the short term as beneath you is your problem, not the problem of someone else who, for example, worked summers and nights to pay for his college degree, and then worked from the bottom toward the "up".  If you see an opportunity like that as beneath you, you are your own enemy.  The "to do" there is to do the things everyone is expected to do to move from being without any skills to being skilled labor who gets skilled labor wages. Do not think too highly of yourself, as it says someplace in an ancient letter.

The third error my posts seek to expose and desiccate is the problem of false guilt -- either the false guilty we seek to impose on others by counting them as an ingredient in a statistical pie or the false guilt one might be willing to accept in order to honor someone else's identity crisis.  There is only one kind of guilt: actual responsibility for a crime or for doing something bad or wrong.  Everything else masquerading as guilt is actually a lie told to gain an advantage over you.  Put another way, the method for dismantling the problem of double-consciousness is not to create the same for others.  The right solution is to see that the aboriginal problem is a falsehood imposed by others and unfortunately accepted by those who bear it -- and it must be rejected by both to kill it dead.  If that is the solution of one sort of double-consciousness, it is the solution for them all.  That is actually the high plane of dignity and discipline, the place where we are not degenerating into either physical violence or moral injustice.  And the funny part of this is that if we are doing this actively, we won't have to ask ourselves about who we have invited to dinner lately -- because those we are inviting are those we have met, travelling on the same path we expect to be travelling on.  The "to do" here turns out to be to put away bitterness, anger, wrath and malice.

That outcome can sound like some sort of attractional model of like-attracts-like, but it is not a merely-pragmatic and merely-convenient approach.  What has happened as we will have implemented all of the remedies -- among which, most importantly, is the Gospel -- we will find ourselves in love with things the world does not love, and attracted to people the world did not expect us to love, and in close friendship and unity with people who now share not just some socio-economic goals but an eternal goal.  The defeat of racism comes from defeating the root cause of sin in the world, and that doesn't start with a culture war: it starts with our personal war on sin when we are faced with our own hearts changed by the Gospel.

If that does not help you, you're looking for the wrong answers.  You're looking for an explanation in the wrong terms.

The comments are open.

Post Script: I have received  a note from a trusted source that this post in particular, but this series in general, has sounded angry.  For example, if someone cannot understand how to do what is explained in the previous post, saying their ability to give it the ol' college try is actually not up to par for the 6th grade in this post is insulting.

Here's my concession to that criticism: everyone isn't always wrong.  It's possible that there are many mature and serious people who have never thought about the implications of putting off the old self because one has been raised with Christ.  How many of them are Christians I leave for the reader to discern.

For the rest, I make no apologies for being angry at the kinds of objections these posts deal with, and the reasons for those objections.


Michael Coughlin said...

I get it, Frank. Well done.

We all harbor some legalism in our hearts as long as we carry the corrupt flesh. Maybe that explains our craving for more detailed instruction.

Anonymous said...

So...you're saying "be Christ-like and continue to grow in godliness"?

This is beginning to sound a whole lot like "go and dip yourself in the Jordan 7 times". And Frank, I know of 7 rivers that are cleaner and way cooler than the Jordan...

Too often I don't hear "go and do what the Master has already told you" because I'm all tuned into the "do great things for God" station.

As you say, big problems are little sins run amuck, so put those things to death.

Great post.

Frank Turk said...

It has been brought to my attention that this post sounds angry.

When what is done is to propose that somehow there is an ignorance or indolence toward the sin of racism on my part, it makes me angry. I will be posting a post-script about this later today.

Webster Hunt said...

It does sound angry, Frank. And when I read it and realize that I'm trying to solve my problem non-Gospelly, I should be angry as well. Then humbled. Then repentant. Because there are some things worth being angry about.

These posts have been good all around, and have affected more than just my views on racism. Thanks for sticking with it 6 weeks in a row, for scaling walls I didn't realize were there.

Robert said...

Angry? Where in the Bible is it OK to be angry? I mean Jesus (reads Matthew 23)...err, Paul (reads Galatians)...hmmm, well it just sounds so angry, you know?

Robert said...

Sorry...overreacted to the reaction to anger and forgot to comment on the post. Honestly, I think this phrase from the correction of the first error captures everything we really need to do:

you personally need to behave in such a way that shows you clearly want to be judged by your own character, and you must judge others only by their character and not (for example) by their job or their neighborhood

If we really live like this, everything takes care of itself. I can't just rest on the fact that I have a nice job and hang out with "the right people". Probably the only thing I would add (although it is implied) is that we have to change our mindsets (repent) in order to do this. And that means admitting we are wrong...which we all are in some respect.

Slightly off-topic, but along the same lines of that last sentence. I like that DJP tweeted that he wonders what error he (and I'd add all theologians of our age) has that people in the future will shake their heads about (he was referring to paedobaptism).

Thanks, Frank, for calling us to self-examination again. Hopefully all of us can admit that we all have work to do in this area and (as you mentioned previously) we need to be approaching each other as people on the same side and not creating enemies. There are enough real demons running around without us trying to create ones from our own imaginations.

David Regier said...

I read it in Frank's voice and it didn't sound angry.

I read it again in Phil's, and now I'm kind of hiding in the corner.