i

Race and racism are obviously controversial issues. Writing on the subject is a thankless task, bound to provoke accusations that an author is enthralled by some nefarious ideology and insufficiently enlightened by a better one. This essay has no agenda either to call out the church for racism or to strike the death blow against wokeness. It simply offers reflections on race and racism intended to help Reformed Christians work through these matters in humble, wise, and Christ-honoring ways. Five basic ideas guide these reflections. (A terminological note: I use “antiracist” to refer to scholars and activists who use this term to describe themselves, not as a general term for all people who think racism is immoral. Although antiracists differ amongst themselves on some issues, they share many core convictions addressed below.)

1. Race Does Not Exist, although Racism Does.

Perhaps the most important thing to say about race, in the typical American sense of the word,[1] is that it does not exist. Unlike sex, it has no biological reality, and unlike ethnicity, it has no cultural reality. The human community simply is not divided into half-a-dozen (or whatever) racial groups united by distinct genetic markers or a common culture. Let me explain this claim.

The idea that race exists did not originate in Scripture. Scripture speaks of all human beings descending from one man, and thus the only “race” it knows is the one human race. Scripture distinguishes among humans, but does so in terms of people-groups. Egyptians, Babylonians, Israelites, and dozens of others had different customs and religions, but they were not different races. The geographical theatre in which the biblical story unfolded, at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, ensured that biblical writers were familiar with people of dark skin, light skin, and many shades in between, yet they gave no hint of regarding Cushites and Galatians (Celts) as racially separate.

Contemporary genetic science comes to the same conclusion. Mapping the human genome is one of the most amazing scientific accomplishments of recent decades. By studying the genetic information of living humans and comparing it to DNA from human remains of past millennia, genetic scientists have been able to reconstruct the migration of peoples and their inter-breeding with other peoples in ways hitherto impossible. Data is still coming in and scientists will undoubtedly modify their reconstructions, but one basic conclusion is clear: the modern conception of race has no genetic basis. People around the world are related to each other in complex and often counter-intuitive ways. Who would have thought, for example, that Western Africans are more closely related genetically to Western Europeans than to Eastern Africans? Population-groups have certain genetic markers distinguishing them from other population-groups, but this does not translate into anything corresponding to the “races” of modern mythology.[2]

Furthermore, race has no cultural reality because, unlike ethnic-groups, modern races (“black,” “white,” “Asian,” etc.) do not share a common culture. Rather, they consist of a multitude of groups with often very different histories, languages, and the like.

I do not know how many contemporary Reformed Christians believe that race is a biological and cultural reality, but they would be well-advised to abandon such a spurious notion.

Race, instead, is a figment of the human imagination. One way to put it is that race is a social construct.[3] Certain people in a certain historical context developed the notion of distinct human races. Although social constructs are not necessarily bad or unhelpful, this one was pernicious. Europeans constructed race in conjunction with the colonization of the Americas and the African slave-trade, and they used it to justify the subjugation of non-Europeans and the elevation of Europeans as morally and intellectually superior.[4]

This explains why racism exists even though race does not. (I take “racism” as treating and judging people not according to what is true about them but according to their racial categorization.) Social constructs can be powerful. Often what we imagine to be true shapes our thoughts, feelings, and behavior more strongly than what is actually true. Christians should understand this. Scripture emphasizes that there is no God but one. Yet idolatry exists and it is seductive. Baal was a construct of the human imagination, but it inspired people to dance around altars cutting themselves and provoked Israel to forsake the living God who redeemed them from bondage. Race is something like a conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theories are based on fabrications, yet they can powerfully re-shape the lives of those who buy into them. They scare people into moving off the grid, rejecting life-saving vaccines, or hording gold coins under their mattress. Likewise, race is based on lies, but the idea became very important to those who believed those lies and forced others to live as if they were true.[5]

2. The Interests of Truth and Peace Call for De-Racialization.

If race is a fabrication of the sinful imagination, there seems to be one fundamental and necessary response: Deal with the idea as the lie it is. Stop acting as though race is real. Stop treating and judging people according to what is false. As people are unlikely to escape Baal-worship until they cease to think and act as though a powerful deity named Baal exists, so people are unlikely to escape racism until they cease to think and act as though race exists.

Some of what this entails is obvious, even if easy to overlook. Most of us have become aware of racial stereotypes and made efforts to give them up, but we all need to stay alert and keep striving to put them aside. Most of us have been warned about the hurt caused by racist jokes, although many people still tell them privately now and then, thinking no one is harmed. But whether in public or private, that is acting as though a destructive lie were true. Or consider some people’s habit of mentioning a person’s racial categorization when it is irrelevant: the European-American, for example, who relates a funny incident at the grocery store and describes one of the people involved as an “Asian guy,” although it has no bearing on the story. Perhaps she intends nothing malicious, but she perpetuates racial thought-patterns that have wrought profound harm.

Recognizing the myth of race calls for de-racialization. That is, to live by truth and at peace with all our fellow humans, we ought to (continue to) strip our minds of racial categories and treat our neighbors without respect to them.

What I just wrote is highly controversial. Its most prominent opponents, however, are not unrepentant racists but antiracists. For antiracists, the preceding paragraph promotes color-blindness, the idea that we should not see other people’s race. They believe this is a terrible thing that impedes racial justice and reconciliation rather than promotes it.[6] Progress, they argue, requires seeing racial tensions and dynamics everywhere. When “whites” do not see race, it manifests their dominant place in society and their privilege over others. “Whites” need to become increasingly cognizant of their “whiteness” and hence remain aware of others’ different identities.[7]

These antiracists have legitimate concerns. If wrongs have been done in the name of an imaginary concept, it is surely impossible to rectify wrongs and change course without mentioning that concept. To return to a previous analogy, the Old Testament prophets did not pretend as though they had never heard of Baal or ignore the seduction of idolatry. Likewise, battling racism throughout de-racialization should not mean that we simply stop talking about race and hope that this clears things up. Antiracists are also rightly concerned about an alleged color-blindness that sees the world only through the lens of one’s own cultural assumptions. Ceasing to judge people according to racial categorization should not mean making one’s own culture the universal standard. Cultural diversity is generally a good thing.[8] Finally, antiracists correctly oppose a color-blindness that evaluates all formally identical racial statements identically. For example, an African-American who says “black is beautiful” and a European-American who says “white is beautiful” make formally identical statements. But in the context of American history, they obviously do not communicate the same thing.[9]

These concerns should keep us from a simplistic color-blindness, but if we are concerned about truth and peace, our goal ought to be the elimination of thinking and acting in racial terms. The best strategy for getting there is open for debate, but it is far-fetched to think that the concept of race might disappear by demanding that people see all things through the lens of race.[10] Racism is doomed only if we de-racialize our thoughts, words, and behavior.

3. We Need an Elusive Combination of Humility and Critical Thinking.

We are dealing with “profoundly complex” issues.[11] It is easy to understand that race does not exist, but when an imaginary but powerful concept has taken hold of so many minds for so long and wreaked so much harm, charting a viable way forward is not simple.

We see this complexity in all sorts of ways. Prominent antiracists, seemingly allies, disagree with each other about basic matters such as what racism is and which people are racists.[12] We see it in controversies about the police. In some cases, the evidence of police misconduct is overwhelming. But very few of us really understand the culture of police departments or are experts on effective policing—which does not stop people from sloganeering (Defund the police! Blue lives matter!). We also see this complexity in our churches. A family of one racial categorization begins to worship and fellowship at a church consisting primarily of people of another racial categorization. Everyone is happy for a while, except that this family finds the worship persistently unfamiliar and the fellowship awkward, for a host of cultural reasons that baffle and frustrate all involved.

In the face of such complexities, humility and open-mindedness are highly important.[13] Proverbs repeatedly urges readers to take counsel and listen to advice. The wise person recognizes that any opinion can seem right when first presented, until another person offers a different argument and puts things in new light (Prov. 18:17).[14] At a time when most people get their news only from sources they trust to tell them what they already think, the wise will ensure they get multiple sides of the story. In a culture in which most people spend most of their time with people of their own racial categorization, the wise will want to listen carefully to the stories and experiences of people of other racial categories—and to listen not to critique but to understand, appreciate, and sympathize. These things are incumbent upon all, but European-Americans should probably pay special attention. Arguments that the drug war and the criminal-justice system work to the unjust detriment of African-American communities, for example, may not resonate with typical European-American experience, but many of them are compelling and at least demand open-minded reflection.

Nevertheless, critical thinking about race controversies is also essential. I think, for example, of a number of controversial ideas promoted by influential antiracists. Some of these ideas have an element of truth, yet all of them demand close scrutiny. I cannot provide this close scrutiny here, but simply call attention to a few matters briefly.[15]

One notion demanding critical reflection is systemic racism.[16] Racism can be systemic, to be sure. American slavery and South African apartheid are obvious examples that institutionalized racism in the law. It is much less clear how to evaluate claims about systemic racism in America today, since racial discrimination is outlawed throughout American society. Many people continue to suffer disadvantages because of their racial categorization, but the extent to which it is due to a “system” rather than to individuals’ malice or carelessness is nearly impossible to prove. “Socialization” into racist prejudice undoubtedly also remains present in American society.[17] Yet claims that this socialization is so pervasive that racial bias shapes everything seem very exaggerated, underestimate differences in cultures and upbringings, and grant race a greater power than it has.[18] Lingering systemic racism is a legitimate topic of conversation, but there are dangers of emphasizing racism as systemic, such as blaming the system instead of individuals’ and groups’ immoral behavior[19]—whether the immoral behavior of the alleged oppressors[20] or the alleged oppressed.[21]

Another issue concerns many antiracists’ embrace of identity politics.[22] This approach divides people into an ever-increasing number of identity groups, each with its own set of interests and grievances.[23] This naturally leads to an emphasis upon race relations as a struggle for power.[24] Identity politics is not about working together for what is good and just, but about redistributing power from oppressor groups to oppressed groups. And this is inseparable from cultural relativism. As one prominent antiracist puts it: “To be antiracist is to see all cultures in all their differences as on the same level, as equals.”[25] These ideas thus have no prospect of promoting peaceful relations among people. If social life is merely a relativistic struggle for power, who can blame people for fighting back against anyone who challenges them? If you tell “oppressors” that any attempt to make an objective, reasonable argument for what is morally right is only a cynical power play, there is nothing left but perpetual war among identity groups.

Finally, it is worth thinking critically about how some influential antiracists link race with a host of other categories in which oppressors and oppressed collide.[26] Of special note, they claim that opposing racism requires support for the LGBTQ agendas.[27]

4. Success in Race Issues in the Church Looks Different from Success in Our Political Communities.

God calls Christians to live peacefully and justly in political communities alongside their non-Christian neighbors. He also calls Christians to gather in the church as a redeemed community of justified believers. Racism is a terrible thing in either community. But the answer and alternative to racism in each community looks different.

In political communities, the antidote to racism is recognition of our common humanity. Christians believe that all human beings are children of Adam, image-bearers of God, and beneficiaries of God’s common grace under the Noahic covenant. However it is understood, our common humanity provides grounds for unity over against the divisiveness of racism and identity politics. But such political unity is relatively shallow, a unity of peaceful co-existence that will always remain fragile in a sinful world in which so many things threaten to divide us. In this context, I believe the (classical) liberalism of the U.S. constitutional order, or something like it, is the best we can do.[28] Such a system supports a broad array of liberties and aims at the kind of society in which people are judged not “by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”[29] Many antiracists (despite being designated “liberal” in contemporary American parlance) oppose such a system, due to their vision of social justice through identity politics and power redistribution.[30]

In our churches, however, the antidote to racism is recognition of not only our common humanity but especially our redeemed humanity. Christians are co-heirs with the Last Adam, re-created in the image of Christ. Their source of unity flows not from common grace but from saving grace, not from this present creation but from the new creation. These redemptive resources are far more powerful than anything political communities have at their disposal, although churches have often used these resources poorly. Consider two advantages the church’s resources provide.

One concerns identity. Finding political unity in, for example, being an American with constitutional liberties is meaningful. But it is proving tenuous in the face of the fragmentation promoted by identity politics. The church has a much more powerful alternative to “the idea that one’s position within society, as determined by group identity, dictates how one sees the world …”[31] Christians’ vision of the world cannot be thus dictated, for their union with Christ through faith and baptism makes them one, and thus there are no Christian identity groups, either of ethnicity (Jew or Greek), class (slave or free), or sex (male or female) (Gal. 3:26–28), let alone the imaginary concept of race.

Another advantage concerns hope. A sort of Pelagianism pervades much antiracist literature. Evil resides in social structures and individuals learn it by socialization. Pessimism often accompanies this quasi-Pelagianism, and with good reason: if changing an individual’s behavior is difficult, changing social power structures is much harder, and where there is no true sin there is also no true grace. There is a lot of Romans 7 in antiracist literature, but without the triumphant note of hope at the end: “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (7:24–25). Most antiracists want to keep trying, through therapy and/or activism,[32] but there is nothing like biblical hope, which is certain and assured—even if fully realized only in the age-to-come. Christians rightly grieve over the church’s many racist failings, but unlike the world we do not grieve without hope (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13). Christians are rightly humbled by the church’s slow and uneven progress in de-racialization, but we remain confident that God’s grace is more powerful than our sin and that our sanctified striving for Christian unity and peace is not in vain (cf. 1 Cor. 15:58).

5. We Need a Serious and Consistent Commitment to a Non-Political Church.

Some Christians with antiracist sympathies criticize churches that, when faced with racial issues, appeal to the church’s non-political nature. This critique is valid insofar as it addresses inconsistent application of the idea,[33] for many churches have indeed appealed to it to avoid committing to political positions on race while expressing plenty of political opinions on other issues. But often the critique runs deeper and charges churches with improperly focusing on evangelism and conversion at the expense of promoting political reform.[34] This deeper critique is unsurprising when it comes from antiracist authors: if racism is primarily systemic rather than individual, then churches cannot oppose racism without political activism.

In this final section, I urge Reformed churches to resist the call to be politically engaged and to strive to be consistently non-political, refusing to “intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth” (Westminster Confession of Faith 31.4).[35] Contemporary tensions over race makes this idea more important, not less.

To be sure, the church must proclaim the whole counsel of God found in Scripture, even about issues that get dragged into political controversy. And of course, Christians may engage in political affairs as one of many legitimate vocations. But politics constantly involves making difficult judgment calls—about when to compromise and settle for a partial good when the full good is unattainable, about which candidate to support when all the choices are flawed, etc. Politics constantly involves judgment calls because politics constantly involves morally ambiguous things.[36] Of course, political players often pretend that what is morally ambiguous is unambiguous. One political faction views itself as good and other factions as evil. Being critical of one’s own faction, or saying something positive about another faction, is forbidden. But no political party or agenda is unambiguously good. None is beyond critique.

Thus, when the church plays politics, it unnecessarily takes sides with some of its members over other members on “opinions” or debatable things (Rom. 14:1).[37] It makes some members’ judgment call on morally ambiguous matters the official position of the church and dismisses the judgments of others. The church thereby goes beyond its mandate to proclaim the unambiguous Scriptures and that alone.

Although I hate to bring it up, the Trump presidency provides an excellent example. To act as though it was either unambiguously good or unambiguously evil is preposterous (although many Americans do one or the other). It is one thing, then, for individual Christians to take all things into consideration and make a judgment call to vote for Trump or to decline to vote for him. But it is far different for a church to be pro-Trump or anti-Trump. If a church chooses one of these paths, it must either admit that it makes a judgment call about a morally ambiguous matter or pretend that the matter is morally unambiguous. If the former, it violates its mandate to teach only the Scriptures. If the latter, it not only deceives itself but also communicates that its members who made a different judgment call have sinned.

These comments are relevant here, in part, because racial issues were one of the flashpoints of the Trump presidency. Many Christians were willing to overlook his inflammatory rhetoric in light of his support for other issues close to their hearts. Other Christians were not willing to overlook it. These were morally ambiguous decisions. Christians should at least be able to agree on that, which means the church has no business deciding the issue for all its members. The preceding comments are also relevant because, as is well-known, Christians of different racial categorization tended to make this ambiguous decision in rather different ways. Thus, churches that take it upon themselves to decide the issue seem likely to exacerbate the racial segregation of American Christianity, not heal it.

Conclusion

When it comes to race and racism, Reformed churches must reflect on their history soberly and work toward a better future seriously. May the Lord grant us much humility, charity, and wisdom.

Endnotes

[1] “Race” has been used in different senses, especially as a way to refer to ethnic-groups or other smaller people-groups. For a brief but helpful discussion of this development of terminology and some of its implications, see Bernard Lewis, Race and Slavery in the Middle East: An Historical Enquiry (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), ch. 2.

[2] See generally David Reich, Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past (New York: Vintage, 2018); and Adam Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold through Our Genes (New York: The Experiment, 2017). Antiracists also deny that race has any biological basis. E.g., see Ibram X. Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist (New York: One World, 2019), 53; Robin DiAngelo, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism (Boston: Beacon, 2018), 5, 15; Jemar Tisby, The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 19, 27; and Jennifer Harvey, Dear White Christians: For Those Still Longing for Racial Reconciliation, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2020), 44.

[3] Perhaps there is a better term, but the basic idea is correct. Antiracists often use “social construct” terminology. E.g., see Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, 3rd ed. (New York: New York University Press, 2017), 9; DiAngelo, White Fragility, 5, 15; Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 35, 37; Harvey, Dear White Christians, 44; and Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 19, 27.

[4] E.g., see the account in Tisby, The Color of Compromise, ch. 2.

[5] It is also interesting, then, that some antiracists (surely unwittingly) describe the power of racism with rhetoric that sounds like that of conspiracy theorists’. For example, DiAngelo speaks of racism as largely invisible to most “whites” until she and others unveil “interlocking patterns” that reveal it. And all possible evidence supports her conclusions, while seemingly nothing can falsify them. For example, if “whites” warn others about a neighborhood because it is “black,” that demonstrates racism, but if they do not use racial language and warn about a neighborhood because it is “dangerous,” that also demonstrates racism, because they speak in code. See White Fragility, 23, 29, 44–46. After developing this conspiracy-theory analogy, I discovered that Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay also use it; see Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody (Durham, NC: Pitchstone, 2020), 36.

[6] E.g., see Delgado and Stefancic, Critical Race Theory, 26; Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 10, 20, 54; DiAngelo, White Fragility, 7, 11, 40–42; and Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 152–53. It is interesting, however, that antiracists sometimes (inadvertently?) recognize the virtue of color-blindness. For example, Kendi (How to Be an Antiracist, 55) speaks appreciatively of when one of his grade-school principals “suddenly saw me not as the misbehaving Black boy but as a boy ….” Yet on his own theory, this principal’s conduct was racist.

[7] E.g., see DiAngelo, White Fragility, 24–38.

[8] This is a rich issue to explore from Christian theological perspective. The diversity of individuals and people-groups seems to be an inevitable development of multiplying and filling the earth (Gen. 1:28; 9:1, 7). It reflects the great potential of humans created in God’s image—potential which no single individual or group can fully embody. Of course, there is also a sense in which our experience of diversity reflects human sin and the misuse of God’s gifts, as the story of Babel illustrates (Gen. 11:1–9). Nevertheless, Scripture indicates that God redeems people in the midst of their diversity and without eliminating all differences, people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). The redeemed community is profoundly united, but not because everyone is identical.

[9] Cf. Harvey, Dear White Christians, 53.

[10] According to Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 54: “Terminating racial categories is potentially the last, not the first, step in the antiracist struggle.”

[11] DiAngelo, White Fragility, 8.

[12] I mention a few examples: For DiAngelo, “whites” are inevitably racist (White Fragility, 4, 87), while for Kendi no one is inevitably racist (How to Be an Antiracist, 10–11). For DiAngelo, only “whites” can be racist (White Fragility, 22), while for Kendi anyone can be racist (How to Be an Antiracist, 10, 128, 136, 140-44). For DiAngelo, generalizing about people based on race is proper and helpful (White Fragility, 11–13), while for Kendi this is improper (How to Be an Antiracist, 44).

[13] Much of the antiracist literature, I am afraid, does not exemplify such virtues. Kendi’s How to Be an Antiracist presents his vision as the way to be antiracist and labels dozens of dissenting opinions on various aspects of his vision as racist. (He does describe his own mistakes and learning in the past, but he gives the impression that he has now arrived.) DiAngelo’s White Fragility properly praises listening and learning from others, yet she repeatedly demeans and belittles the people who have participated in her seminars and disagreed with things she said.

[14] The “Report of the Committee on the Problems of Race,” presented to the 1974 General Assembly of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is dated in some obvious and understandable ways, but it remains worthy of consideration. For example, section IV.2 reflects on the mutuality of love among those of different racial categorization, and I believe such mutual love would go a long way toward the sort of humility and open-mindedness I am encouraging here.

[15] Many of the ideas I have in mind are associated with critical race theory. For a positive presentation of critical race theory, see Delgado and Stefancic, Critical Race Theory. For recent critiques of it, see (from Reformed perspective) Carl R. Trueman, “Evangelicals and Race Theory,” First Things 310 (Feb. 2021): 19–24, and (from secular liberal perspective) Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, ch.5.

[16] For some expressions of this, see e.g. DiAngelo, White Fragility, 3, 19–22, 83; and Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 16.

[17] DiAngelo focuses a great deal on socialization. As she puts it: Racism is “a system into which I was socialized” (White Fragility, 4).

[18] See DiAngelo again on the alleged pervasiveness of racism. For example, “racial disparity” exists “in every institution across society,” and racism is present in every “cross-racial friendship.” See White Fragility, 22–23, 81.

[19] In confessional terms, focusing on systemic issues may distract from the responsibility to repent of “particular sins, particularly” (Westminster Confession of Faith, 15.5).

[20] E.g., DiAngelo believes that being racist is simply inevitable for “whites” and is not a matter of whether they are moral or immoral people. See White Fragility, 13–14.

[21] E.g., Kendi frequently emphasizes that troubles within “Black” communities are only the result of bad political policies and not of the behavior of people within them. See How to Be an Antiracist, 8–9, 18–20, 64, 117, 153. He does not even permit discussion of other potentially contributing factors (27, 185).

[22] DiAngelo explicitly embraces identity politics in White Fragility, xiii–xiv.

[23] As Amy Chua puts it, “Once identity politics gains momentum, it inevitably subdivides, giving rise to ever-proliferating group identities demanding recognition.” See Political Tribes: Group Instinct and the Fate of Nations (New York: Penguin, 2018), 183.

[24] Kendi often speaks about race in terms of a struggle for power. E.g., see How to Be an Antiracist, 34–35, 38, 42, 130, 208. Cf. Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 17.

[25] Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 91.

[26] This raises the complicated issue of intersectionality. For discussion of the importance of intersectionality for antiracism from a prominent antiracist, see Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 188–200. For critical discussion of the same topic, see e.g. Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 123–32.

[27] E.g., see DiAngelo, White Fragility, 15, 40; and Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 38, 193–98. To mention two other issues, some antiracists also claim that true opponents of racism must be feminist and anti-capitalist. E.g., see Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 156–63, 189.

[28] For a detailed argument for this, see David VanDrunen, Politics after Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2020), especially ch. 12.

[29] These words, of course, are from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech; see A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., ed. James M. Washington (New York: HarperCollins, 1986), 219. Antiracists frequently assail such appeals to King and portray him as a much more radical critic of the American polity. E.g., see Kendi, How to Be an Antiracist, 179; DiAngelo, White Fragility, 41; Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 148; and Harvey, Dear White Christians, 32–33.

[30] E.g., see Delgado and Stefancic, Critical Race Theory, 3, 26–29.

[31] As described by Pluckrose and Lindsay, Cynical Theories, 118.

[32] I take it, generally, that DiAngelo’s approach in White Fragility is one of therapy, while Kendi’s in How to Be an Antiracist is one of activism. At the end of his book, Kendi proposes combatting racism in the body politic as physicians combat cancer in the human body, that is, by saturating “the body politic with the chemotherapy or immunotherapy of antiracist policies” (237). This analogy makes some sense if the problem with racism does not lie in the human heart but in social structures.

[33] E.g., see Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 86.

[34] E.g., see Tisby, The Color of Compromise, 69, 135, 140–41, 149.

[35] Some Reformed theologians discuss this issue in terms of the “spirituality of the church” while others believe the term has been poisoned by its abuse and that we should not use it. I will not engage this debate here.

[36] By “morally ambiguous things,” I mean issues that involve genuine moral choices yet require us to choose between things that involve mixtures of good and evil rather than between things that are wholly good or wholly evil. Whether to defraud one’s neighbor is not morally ambiguous. Whether to speed through a residential neighborhood where children are playing to get a person having a stroke to a hospital is morally ambiguous.

[37] On some ecclesiastical matters, this is necessary. A congregation’s members may have different opinions about what time to begin Sunday morning worship, for instance, but the church must make a decision.

David VanDrunen is a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and serves as the Robert B. Strimple professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics at Westminster Seminary California, Escondido, California. Ordained Servant Online, March 2021.

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Ordained Servant: March 2021

Race

Also in this issue

Commentary on the Form of Government of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Chapter 14

Slavery and Covenanters: A Review Article

Natural Law and Human Rights: Toward a Recovery of Practical Reason by Pierre Manent

Politics after Christendom: Political Theology in a Fractured World by David VanDrunen

7 Big Questions Your Life Depends On by William J. Edgar

A Pilgrim’s View

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