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Friday, April 7, 2017

Real White Christian Guilt

Rod Dreher has caused a real stir by strongly suggesting that, in the light of today's lost culture war, Christians should look to St  Benedict (click here), a monastic, for learning how to live in more tight knit communities. The reason for doing this is so that we don't lose our values and traditions to an increasingly hostile, secular and modernistic culture. 

We've lost the culture war to secularism and modernity, Dreher says, and so now it is our turn to be marginalized. Here we should note the first funny, not ha ha funny, thing about Dreher's view of our situation. That because Christianity has lost control over culture, its enemies stand poised to marginalize us. But never does Dreher say anything about whether Christians had marginalized unbelievers when Christianity ruled culture. We do know that many Christians definitely worked to marginalize people of color and the LGBT community, but as long as unbelievers followed Christian inspired civil laws, such as the Blue Laws. Thus, it seems that Christianity coexisted to some extent with parts of secularism and modernity. But now that secularists and modernists are in control via  the sexual revolution, we can anticipate being persecuted to varying degrees with the result that we will be marginalized in society (click here for Dreher''s Christianity Today article describing his Benedict Option).

So Dreher has proposed that Christianity, in several senses, circle the wagons because of our anticipated torment. And here is the next funny thing. For while Dreher is adamant about denying that we are to withdraw from society, he sees a strong need for us to become more insular because culture has gone too far for us work with it.

Dreher has received both positive and negative reactions from a number of Christians. This blog has rejected Dreher's proposal starting with his analysis of the problem and finishing with his solution.  This blog has stated that Dreher's analysis is flawed because it seems to assume that Christians and unbelievers cannot or should not share society as equals. And this blog has rejected Dreher's solution because it is similar to what was known as 'White Flight.' That was when Whites moved to the suburbs from urban neighborhoods in order to get away from neighborhoods where Blacks were beginning to move into. Other Christians who have rejected Dreher's Benedict Option do so because they see other Christian examples, such as that set by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, of dealing with anticipated marginalization. Certainly, no one could argue against following Bonhoeffer's examples of how to deal with hostility and persecution.

But along comes Jemar Tisby (click here for bio) from the Reformed African American Network to throw an altogether different challenge at Dreher's Benedict Option. For Tisby sees racism in Dreher's approach. How could he possibly see racism in an issue where race has no bearing on the issue at hand? It is actually quite simple. For Tisby asks why, if Dreher is looking for examples on how to handle marginalization, has he not looked to the African American Church for examples of those who handled marginalization? After all, the vast majority of those from African American Church have been marginalized for most of America's history if not all of it.

In an article on the Reformed African American Network (click here for the article), Tisby answers that question. The answer is that White Christians do not go to Black Christians to be taught. In Dreher's case, it was because Dreher looked for help from examples that came from a completely different continent. It might not have occurred to him to look for examples from America because those examples were from those of a different skin color and race. And Tisby does share a couple of examples of Blacks who, because of their graceful responses to some of the most difficult hardships, could become sources of inspiration and enlightenment on how to handle being marginalized.

Tisby's point is rather simple and so obvious. Yet, neither Dreher nor his critics nor his supporters, at least the ones I have read, have considered looking to the African American Church as a resource for how to handle being marginalized in society. And all those who ignored the many African American  examples of how to handle marginalization and worse included me. Yes, I thought that Dreher, despite his denial, proposes a significant withdraw to society. But never once did I think of looking the to African American Church for examples of and wisdom on how to handle marginalization in society. I am as guilty of overlooking the wisdom of the African American Church in this matter as Dreher is and this is despite my having read Martin Luther King Jr. and James Cone.

Before we consider how to handle the changing times in our culture, especially regarding how to endure potential marginalization and persecution, perhaps all of us should put the Benedict Option on hold while we research how the African American Christians endured all of the hardships that White Americans, including White Christians, threw their way.






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