The author is Professor of New Testament & Greek, University of Northwestern—St. Paul
Joel McDurmon wrote “A Response to the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel.” This brief essay makes no effort to address all his concerns but focuses narrowly on one aspect, namely the third point for why he claims that he will not sign the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel (SoSJ&tG)—“The document combines disparate social issues (race, marriage, sexuality) under one overgeneralized label.”
McDurmon seems not to discern that when, in the current culture, people appropriate “Social Justice” they do not simply employ a combination of words. They are employing an expression that has a history that has filled up the word combination with Marxist assumptions and beliefs. Contrary to McDurmon’s claim, the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel does not combine “disparate social issues (race, marriage, sexuality) under one overgeneralized label” as though race, marriage, and sexuality were equal categories. Indeed, “race, marriage, and sexuality” should not be categorized together and certainly not under “one overgeneralized label.”
Any fair reader of the SoSJ&tG recognizes that the issue at stake in the Statement is not to categorize race, marriage, and sexuality under a single label. Rather, what distresses the signers of the statement is how some Evangelicals are accommodating the gospel’s and Scripture’s call for our obedience to Christ Jesus concerning various issues among us, particularly inclusion of ethnically diverse fellow believers in our midst, to Marxism’s concept of “class conflict.” By framing this issue in terms of “majority culture” versus “minority culture” or “oppressors” versus “oppressed victims” or similar other expressions, Evangelicals are importing the categories of Social Justice, borrowed from Cultural Marxism, that appeal to the baser nature of fallen humans, and applying them to resolve problems that they perceive to be plaguing Evangelicals and our churches. Alert Evangelicals are readily aware that some fellow believers are implementing Cultural Marxism’s class conflict of oppressor versus oppressed concerning how Christians and the church ought to address issues that have social aspects to them such as race, ethnicity, marriage, same-sex sexuality, so-called trans-sexuality, etc. Various Evangelicals are turning to the Marxist Social Justice toolbox to employ its class conflict tools to advocate concerning their Social Justice causes. They exploit the same accusations, the same strategies, the same emotional ventings, the same claims, the same assertions, the same categories, and the same tactics as society’s Social Justice activists to demand appeal for not only acceptance of but for endorsement of their solutions on how to resolve problems they perceive to exist in the church concerning race, ethnicity, marriage, same-sex sexuality, trans-sexuality, etc. To disagree with evangelical Social Justice advocates is to be accused of guilt for opposing their cause just as with Social Justice activists in the larger society. Herein is the concern of the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel. The Statement endeavors to prompt fellow Evangelicals to recognize these concerns and to take action to prevent further intrusion of Cultural Marxism into evangelical churches, corroding biblical and Christian teachings and practices concerning doing justice among us.
Without any equivocation, I most strenuously object to every form of injustice. I teach against, I preach against, I advocate against, and I act against injustices and I seek to rectify injustices. I oppose every form that the sin of preferentialism takes because favoritism is sin. It is sinful whether one shows favoritism for the rich over the poor or for the poor over the rich, or prejudice for white versus black or for black versus white, or preference for males to the detriment of females or for females to the detriment of males. Preferentialism, or if you prefer, favoritism, is always and invariably sinful and must be rebuked. This is the clear and undoubted teaching of Scripture and is integral to the gospel’s call as James makes unequivocally clear: “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers” (2:8-9). Love, in other words, refuses to show favoritism. Christian love is the antithesis of favoritism.
So, let’s apply this to the issue of same-sex sexual attraction. As I have affirmed more than once in social media, it is right, proper, and necessary for Christians to reject every advocacy for same-sex sexual attraction because, as many others and I have argued same-sex sexual attraction is itself inherently sinful. It is righteous not unrighteous to denounce same-sex sexual attraction as sinful. To call same-sex sexual attraction and engagement in same-sex sexual acts sinful is not an act of prejudice but an act of righteousness. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ calls for us to condemn sin in all its forms.
Likewise, as I have affirmed in sermons, in lectures and in publications it is right, proper, and necessary to object strenuously against every argument for and act of prejudice against another human on the basis of what has come to be called “race,” an ill-chosen term. “Racism,” which takes the form of favoritism for or discrimination against persons on the basis of skin color is a reprehensible sin and worthy of our intense denunciation and call for repentance. To defend the integrity and dignity of a person who has been subjected to the wicked effects of preferentialism (discrimination) on the basis of skin color is an act of righteousness. To denounce acts and attitudes of demeaning and discrimination is our righteous, good, proper, and necessary calling as disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel does not equate same-sex sexual attraction and race under one generalized label, contrary to McDurmon’s claim. Anyone who reads the statement and draws such a conclusion does so wrongly. Perhaps the statement needs to be made clearer concerning this. But when I read and signed the statement, I detected no such confusion. Nevertheless, I will attempt briefly to clarify the matter for my readers by commenting on two recent conferences held by Evangelicals. As I do so, it is not necessary for me to identify persons. Anyone who has kept pace with these discussions will have certain names in mind.
Organizers and advocates of the recent Revoice Conference exploit worldly Social Justice categories—“oppressed,” “oppressor,” “marginalized,” “minority status,” “victimhood,” “invisible,” “intersectionality”—to argue that Christians and churches need to accept and approve of same-sex sexual attraction as not sinful but perhaps even holy. Christians who sign the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel oppose same-sex sexual attraction as sinful. That is not at all in doubt. Signers also object to the arguments and tactics that same-sex sexual attraction advocates exploit because they exploit the worldly Social Justice toolbox of Cultural Marxism when they claim that they hold “minority status,” that they are “victims,” “marginalized,” rendered “invisible,” and occupy a place of “intersectionality of faith, of gender, and of sexuality.”
Earlier this year, organizers and speakers at the MLK50 Conference certainly had a just and righteous cause for which to advocate which can be expressed well with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words: “I have a dream that my four 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.” King’s cause was righteous regardless his standing before God. His cause is righteous because it agrees with James 2:1-13. It is righteous because to favor or to disfavor human beings on the basis of “the color or their skin” is vile, wicked, unrighteous, unholy, reprehensible, and sinful. Have I made my assertion clear enough? Have I made my point unequivocally unambiguous? Signers of the Statement on Social Justice & the Gospel affirm this wholeheartedly and without any mental reservation at all.
So, what are signers troubled about concerning some who spoke at the MLK50 Conference and some who have published articles in the wake of the conference? Signers of the Statement of Social Justice & the Gospel are in full agreement with conference speakers and writers who are concerned to admonish Christians and to appeal to churches to receive and to welcome all who confess faith in Christ Jesus as full covenant members regardless of racial or ethnic differences. This is not at all disputed. So, what troubles the statement’s signers concerning what some conference speakers and some post-conference bloggers have said? The Statement’s signers object to the exploitation of the worldly Social Justice toolbox of Cultural Marxism when they accuse Christians and Christian churches as “oppressors” who are “guilty” of racism both individually and corporately, oppressors who have subjected “people of color” or people of “minority status,” “marginalizing” them, subjecting them to “victimhood,” and a few add to this the affliction of “intersectionality” for some. Advocates of and practitioners of the kind of Social Justice that derives from Cultural Marxism invariably do injustice toward people whom they deem oppressors when they attempt to do justice toward people whom they deem oppressed. Favoritism toward people based on skin color is still injustice even if it has the appearance of reversing discrimination based on skin color. Why? It is because it is still a form of preferentialism, a form of prejudice.
As a signer of the statement who has addressed these issues for 30 years in lectures and forums and has published an article and an essay on “Multiculturalism and Diversity,” I have demonstrated that those who employ the tools from the Social Justice toolbox, including strategies, emotional ventings, claims, assertions, categories, and tactics invariably stir up conflict, anger, animosity, hostility, and alienation, the very opposite from the “reconciliation” and “harmony” that they intend to accomplish and which they claim is their objective. Why are hostility, animosity, and alienation the effect? It is because the tools from the Social Justice toolbox appeal to the baser aspects of human nature by promoting victimhood and without biblical warrant charging fellow believers and the church with corporate guilt. Invariably, this strategy and these tactics incite division and disharmony among believers. For example, the alleged “oppressors” (“whites”) are obligated to listen patiently to the “oppressed” (“blacks”) who recount their experiences of being subjected to racism while they heap “white guilt” upon their captive audience, individuals who, if they object that they have not engaged in racist behavior are told that their objection is itself proof of their guilt. Hence, I have repeatedly argued that to turn to the Social Justice toolbox is to turn away from the gospel and away from Scripture to implement worldly and ungodly tactics to address an otherwise sacred and righteous cause (e.g., “Multiculturalism Goes to College”). Of course, many have tried to baptize Social Justice tactics as Christian by looking to Scripture to find divine authorization for their strategy and tactics. The desire for racial harmony is righteous. Use of the strategy and tactics borrowed from the Social Justice toolbox is unholy, subversive to the gospel, and antithetical to Scripture’s teachings. Hence, again, I have demonstrated how those advocates and activists who employ the Social Justice tools from the Cultural Marxist toolbox invariably abuse Scripture to support their claims. “Let’s Get Biblical: Moving from Scripture to Theology Concerning ‘Racial Reconciliation.’”
Love one another as Christ has loved us. This is the gospel’s call to us.